Wire From Grill-Cleaning Brush Leads to Woman’s Near-Fatal Hospitalization

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A Seattle-area woman who nearly died after consuming a wire bristle from a brush used to clean a grill at a family barbecue was warning others this week to be cautious.


A bristle from a wire grill-cleaning brush sent a Washington woman to the hospital in May 2014. (Credit: KCPQ)

Tammy Johnson of Puyallup, Wash., had severe pain after eating grilled chicken made at home.

“I just had pain. … You just wouldn’t think you had eaten something that would cause this,” she told KTLA sister station KCPQ in Seattle.

At the hospital, Johnson received an X-ray that showed a “foreign body” had punctured her intestine, prompting emergency surgery.

Then a bad infection developed after surgery and her intestines shut down. She almost died and remained hospitalized nearly two weeks later, KCPQ reported.

“It’s been very scary. The idea that you could just so easily take everything away … I just want to see tomorrow,” Johnson said.

Her husband feels guilty because he cleaned the grill before the barbecue, she said.

Amid her continuing recovery, Johnson said she was shocked to learn that others have undergone similar trauma after accidentally ingesting wire bristles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drew attention to the problem in 2012, when it published the accounts of six patients who had similar injuries within a one-year period at just one hospital.


A closeup on a wire grill brush. (Credit: Isaac Wedin/flickr via Creative Commons)

All six patients had been grilling at home and had used wire grill-cleaning brushes.

“The severity of injury ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract requiring emergent surgery,” the CDC report stated.

The report was intended to raise awareness among medical professionals and the public and wire-brush makers and retailers.

In advance of possible Father’s Day grilling festivities, Johnson too wanted to raise awareness.

“They sell brushes right along with the grills,” she said. “Don’t do it. There are other ways to clean (grills). … It’s just not worth that chance.”

The CDC recommended that grill-masters consider alternative cleaning methods or carefully examine the grilling surface for the presences of bristles before cooking.

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