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Teen Nearly Dies After Accidentally Eating Wire from Barbecue Bristle Brush

Update Date: May 10, 2013 01:03 PM EDT

As the weather heats up, many people are going to start using their grills more often. However, a recent story highlights the importance of grill safety. A 16-year-old boy in the Seattle area has nearly died after a barbecue bristle brush, no larger than a stand of hair, impaled his small intestine.

According to the Seattle Times, the teen, Tristin Beck, went to a barbecue late last month, where he thought nothing of polishing off a piece of chicken. Shortly after the incident, the teenager started feeling stomach cramps. Thinking that it was just an abdominal cramp, Tristin started realizing that it was something more serious when he started vomiting repeatedly. Some of the vomit was tinged with blood.

When his parents took him to the hospital, doctors were stumped by the mystery ailment, thinking that it could be anything from a birth defect to a brain tumor. Eventually determining that the issue was a bowel obstruction after performing a number of tests, doctors decided to perform an exploratory surgery.

It was during the surgery that they discovered the source of Tristin's health problems: a bristle brush lodged into the wall of his small intestine. "Somehow one of the tiny little hairlike wires got stuck in one of the grills in the barbecue and in a one-in-a-million chance it got stuck in a piece of chicken that I ate and made it most of the way through my body but then got stuck in my intestines and basically started stabbing me from the inside out," Tristin said to the Seattle Times.

In fact, the problem is a more common one than people suspect. In recent years, many people have suffered from internal injuries as a result of swallowing wires from bristle brushes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, resulting in puncture of the neck's soft tissues to damage of the gastrointestinal tract. It is possible that the problem may be underreported because physicians may remove the wire without realizing that it is from a bristle brush.

Though Tristin will likely be avoiding food from a grill for a long time this summer, the CDC does not state that it is necessary to evade the barbecue altogether. "Before cooking, persons should examine the grill surface carefully for the presence of bristles that might have dislodged from the grill brush and could embed in cooked food. Alternative residential grill-cleaning methods or products might be considered," the health agency says. 

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