Yvette Fornelli suffered a life-threatening injury from a tiny bristle from a barbecue brush. Tim Collins/Victoria News

Victoria woman alerts public about dangers of stray BBQ brush wires

Bristle in food leads serious intestinal surgery

Tim Collins/Victoria News

The bits of metal are tiny, but if ingested and left untreated they can cause serious injury and even death. And most of us will risk being exposed to them this summer.

They are the bristles on your barbecue brush. Less than half a centimetre long and very thin, they can become loose over time, dislodge from the brush and get stuck to the grill during cleaning. If transferred to food and swallowed, the sharp bits of wire can get stuck in the mouth, esophagus, stomach or intestine where they can puncture the intestinal wall and become a grave risk to your health.

That’s what happened to Yvette Fornelli on June 9. She found herself in excruciating pain and made her way to the emergency department of Royal Jubilee Hospital. Two CT scans and 27 hours later, Fornelli was in surgery, where she had a three-cm section of her small intestine removed to repair the damage.

“The surgeon still wasn’t certain what it was that had punctured the intestine, but they sent the material to the pathology lab, where they confirmed that it was a tiny piece of wire from the barbecue brush,” she said.

Fornelli is facing weeks of recovery and wonders why more isn’t done to warn the public of this serious hazard.

The threat posed by wire barbecue brushes has been known for years. But beyond the occasional warning from government agencies to check brushes for wear, and an industry accommodation that has placed small warning labels on some (not all) new BBQ brushes, there has been little or no action in response to the threat; this despite numerous studies indicating the severity of the risk.

In one such study, published in the medical journal, Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, it was reported that between 2002 and 2014 an estimated 1,700-plus Americans attended emergency departments as a result of wire brush injuries. That number may well be much higher, it went on to say, as the injury isn’t regularly classified and tracked. Not only that, the statistics did not include clinics and regular doctor’s offices.

A Government of Canada web page warns of the hazard in a small section on barbecue safety, but does not advise people to refrain from using the brushes. The Canadian Society of Otolaryngology has gone further, in 2016 advising people to rid themselves of the brushes.

“Why do they keep selling these things when they know they’re a hazard? People should just throw them away,” said Fornelli. “And stores shouldn’t sell them.”

After hearing from the Victoria News, Island Health representative Meribeth Burton reached out to Dr. Samaad Malik, Fornelli’s surgeon, who confirmed the cause of her injury as “a perforation caused by a BBQ brush bristle.”

He went on to write, “These bristles are often fine and small, and when ingested can be difficult to identify and locate. In cases like this, patients present with abdominal pain and the object can only be discovered through a CT scan.”

Island Health plans to include a warning about the brushes in its summer safety checklist. Options to the wire BBQ brush include:

• pumice stones or grill stones

• nylon bristle brushes (for use on cold surfaces)

• wooden scrapers

• crumpled aluminum foil (careful not to burn your hand)

• any of a number of specialty scrapers and cleaning tools available at hardware outlets

If cleaning your grill while hot, ensure that whatever tool you use has a long enough handle to protect you from burns. If you’re still intent on using a wire brush to clean your grill, inspect the brush before using and if any bristles are loose, discard it immediately.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

BC SPCA proposes fines for animal mistreatment, reduction in commercial trade

Animal welfare group’s ideas brought to Victoria councillors

Trial date delayed in case of slain Oak Bay sisters

Case of Andrew Berry, charged in deaths of daughters, will reconvene in three weeks

School’s on today, more snow expected across Greater Victoria

Environment Canada says more snow could fall Friday

New Victoria graving dock will offer high-paying jobs

New facility will reuse and treat any water required for repair process

Duncan family says care home switched mom’s cat with robot cat

Staff alleged to have said they were taking cat for bath, then replaced her with robotic stuffed toy

VIDEO: B.C. superfans soak in 2018 PyeongChang Olympics

Trio, including two from the Okanagan, have been cheering on Summerland Olympian Kripps among others in Korea

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Tofino Bus will cover Victoria–Nanaimo route after Greyhound announces cut

Although its name says ‘Tofino’, this bus company serves all of Vancouver Island

Northern B.C. short 121 registered nurses: report

Auditor General says officials need to improve internal management, track effect of new policies

B.C. businesses say new health tax will raise prices for consumers

Province announced that MSP will be gone by 2020

Barnful of ducks die in early morning blaze

The cause of the fire is unknown

B.C. speculation tax applies to out-of-province homeowners

Albertans with Okanagan, Island properties hit, Kootenays could come later

Indigenous elders share history with Ladysmith students

‘Our kids learning their history through elders is nothing that we can find in our textbooks’

It’s quietly business as usual for the E&N

Waiting game continues in quest for direction on service ceased since 2011

Most Read