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Beware this hidden danger when grilling

Grilling season is heating up. Many foods taste even more delicious when cooked over an open flame. Burgers, chicken, sausage, and even vegetables are delectable with a little sear and smoky flavor.
According to home industry advisors at The NPD Group, more than 14 million grills and smokers were sold between April 2020 and February 2021, amounting to a 39% increase in dollar sales during the first year of the pandemic, compared to the same period the year prior. Grilling is not something that has gone away simply because pandemic precautions have been lifted. It’s still a popular way to cook food, especially when entertaining in warm weather.
The National Fire Protection Association advises that seven out of every 10 adults in the United States have a grill or smoker. And while home fires are associated with such appliances, there’s another danger associated with grills – particularly regarding how they’re cleaned.
Popular stainless steel or brass wire brushes commonly used to clean grills may be effective, but they can be quite dangerous as well. Consumer Reports states that thousands of people visit emergency rooms each year after having ingested wire bristles that stick to the grill surface and end up in cooked food.
Recently, a pediatric emergency doctor in St. Petersburg, Fla., posted a now-viral TikTok video explaining how a 4-year-old boy she treated developed ear pain after eating at a barbecue. It took a barrage of tests before doctors eventually determined the boy had a two-centimeter-long metal wire lodged in his peritonsillar tissues in the throat (nearby to the ear, thus causing the pain), and an abscess had developed around it. The boy had been eating a hamburger, so it is presumed that a metal wire from a grill cleaning brush had become lodged in the burger and then in his throat.
Wire bristles also can wreak havoc in the stomach and intestines if they are consumed. Infections may occur, even leading to sepsis if not treated promptly.
Fortunately for avid grillers, they don’t need to turn in their spatulas just yet and give up on grilling. In fact, embracing new ways to clean grills can ensure everyone gets to eat great food without getting sick.
Invest in alternative cleaning tools. Pumice stones and coil-shaped bristle-free brushes can effectively lean grills without employing wire bristle brushes.
Use oven cleaner. Rather than scrubbing, grab oven cleaner spray and use it on the grill. Wipe off the residue when foods stuck on the grill dissolve.
Rely on aluminum foil. Aluminum foil wads can replicate the scouring power of steel-wool pads. Wait for the grill to cool down a bit before using the foil to clean.
Inspect the grill. If you still use a wire brush, make sure to toss it if the bristles start to come loose. Also, wipe the grill down with a damp cloth prior to grilling to catch any errant wire bristles prior to cooking.
Taking measures to clean grills without wire brushes can ensure a season’s worth of safe and delicious cooking.