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Man warns others after swallowing grill brush bristle

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – One of the most popular ways to spend the Fourth of July is grilling in the backyard. Before you begin, 8 On Your Side has a warning you will want to hear.

A Lakeland, Florida, man learned of the danger of grill brushes firsthand, after getting one of the bristles removed from his stomach.

“This is my souvenir,” Clif Hennecy said, as he held up a plastic container with a tiny piece of metal inside.

A doctor found the stainless steel bristle lodged in Hennecy’s stomach. “He said, ‘This is a bristle out of a BBQ brush; you need to change the way you clean your grill,’” the Lakeland man explained. “He said, ‘A lot of times they don’t come out that easy,’ but he gave it a couple little tugs and it came right out. I was shocked, especially when he told me some of the consequences that it could’ve led to.”

Others haven’t been so lucky.

University of Missouri study estimated 1,698 cases of bristle brush injuries between 2002 and 2014 – or about 130 per year. Data shows the majority of related injuries occur in the mouth, throat and tonsils. The issue is more prevalent in the summer months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports injuries ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain wjem swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, which requires surgery.

It remains unclear if different brands or designs of grill-cleaning brushes, different grill types, different types of food, or different health conditions make a difference in the risk for ingestion of wire bristles, according to the CDC.

“There seems to be very little awareness of the potential hazard. You can go buy a brush for $1, and you can imagine what you’re getting for $1. Those bristles are not designed to stay in there,” Hennecy said.

He isn’t taking any chances. He now uses tinfoil and tongs to clean his grill. “There’s no bristles, so nothing to get in your stomach to stick you or anything like that,” Hennecy said.

Experts recommend closely inspecting brushes before using them and examining the grill closely to make sure there are no loose bristles. They also recommend finding other ways to clean the grill, such as using brushes with nylon or wire mesh.