Lethal or Unintended Side Effects

Watch what you eat: The dangers of a bristle in your burger

Public Release: 4-Apr-2016


New study looks at wire-bristle grill brush injuries in the United States

American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery


  • Wire-bristle grill brushes, used for cleaning grill grates, may lose bristles when used. These bristles can adhere to the grill, become stuck to food, and then accidentally be ingested. A literature and national database review yielded case reports and documented injuries from ingestion, sometimes requiring surgery.
  • The public and physicians may not be cognizant of the dangers and the medical implications of wire bristle injuries. Lack of awareness can result in a delayed diagnosis and intervention.
  • Data show that the majority of these injuries tend to be located in the head and neck region, with incidents more commonly occurring in the summer months.
  • Use of alternative cleaning methods may reduce this problem

ALEXANDRIA, VA–Research published today in the April 2016 edition of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery examines the incidence of injuries caused by ingesting wire bristles from grill brushes, and prompts physicians and consumers to take notice before the summer grilling season.

Researchers reviewed literature and used the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the consumer reported injury database SaferProducts.gov to estimate emergency department visits for wire bristle injuries between 2002 and 2014. The study’s authors estimated 1698 cases presented to emergency departments in that time but caution that the estimate doesn’t include cases presenting at urgent care facilities or other outpatient settings.

“The issue is likely under reported and thus underappreciated,” said the study’s lead author, C.W. David Chang, MD. “Because of the uncommon nature of wire bristle injuries, people may not be as mindful about the dangers and implications. Awareness among emergency department physicians, radiologists, and otolaryngologists is particularly important so that appropriate tests and examinations can be conducted.”

The most common location of injury was the oral cavity and the oropharynx which includes the throat and tonsils. In all databases, injuries involving the esophagus and head and neck were more frequent than abdominal injuries.

The study’s authors encourage consumers to exercise caution when cleaning grills with wire-bristle brushes, examining brushes prior to each use and discarding if bristles are loose. They recommend inspecting cooking grates prior to cooking, and checking into alternative cleaning methods.


The study’s authors are: Tiffany P. Baugh, MD; Jamie B. Hadley, and C. W. David Chang, MD.

Members of the media who wish to obtain a copy of the study or request an interview should contact: Lindsey Walter at 1-703-535-3762, or newsroom@entnet.org.

About the AAO-HNS/F

The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, one of the oldest medical associations in the nation, represents about 12,000 physicians and allied health professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck. The Academy serves its members by facilitating the advancement of the science and art of medicine related to otolaryngology and by representing the specialty in governmental and socioeconomic issues. The AAO-HNS Foundation works to advance the art, science, and ethical practice of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery through education, research, and lifelong learning. The organization’s vision: “Empowering otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons to deliver the best patient care.”

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