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Tacoma man not alone with grill brush horror story

Centers for Disease Control
Images from CT scans and an X-ray show grill bristles lodged in people's digestive tract.

Federal regulators are looking into a health hazard that sent a Tacoma man to the hospital over the weekend.

Adam Wojtanowicz ate a grilled steak, and ended up in surgery. It had nothing to do with the meat, or even cooking with fire – no, Wojtanowicz actually ingested a metal bristle from the wire brush used to clean the grill. That little whisker of steel can wreak havoc on the digestive system, puncturing intestines or other organs. 

It turns out to be a rare but not unique injury. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has identified 17 cases like Wojtanowicz’s since 2007, a pretty tiny number compared with the estimated thousands of other grill-related injuries each year.

But it’s enough to make even an experienced grillmaster squeamish, such as Derrick Williams, vice president of the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association.

“You know if your brush is old with a lot of gunk on it and grease, you should be careful. You should try to change your brush at least twice a year,” said Williams.

He also suggests a scrub pad or high pressure hose to clean off gunk.

You could also try an alternative products, such as The Grillion (yes, it is for real):

Public health authorities haven’t identified any particular brand of brush that’s especially dangerous. The Consumer Products Safety Commission is looking into the phenomenon, after Senator Charles Schumer requested an inquiry in May. A spokesman for the agency said this issue hadn’t even been on their radar before Schumer brought it up.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.