We’re pretty sure almost everyone had a barbecue over Memorial Day weekend. It’s a proud tradition in America. The weather was perfect for it, too. It was between 80 and 90 degrees for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
As injury lawyers in the Washington, DC area, we keep a pretty close eye on topics in the news regarding safety and injuries, and believe it or not, the subject of barbecue injuries has been coming up a lot lately. It might seem like a strange thing to be worried about, but people get hurt while barbecuing all the time.
The atmosphere is pretty ripe for accidents if you think about it. You are in a backyard, the environment is relaxed and casual, and more often than not people are drinking beer or other types of alcohol. It’s easy to forget that there is anything to worry about at all. But do remember that you are dealing with either open fire or propane that is bottled under pressure. You are in the process of turning raw meat into cooked meat, and you have to come into contact with a surface that is almost the exact same temperature as fire in order to do it.
A lot of injuries happen because people grill in the wrong place. Setting up a charcoal grill on the balcony of an apartment is the absolute wrong place to do it, but people do so all the time. Some injuries happen because people get a little impatient and use gasoline to light the coals instead of lighter fluid. Sometimes they use lighter fluid but don’t cap the bottle and keep it away from the grill. Sometimes they don’t properly attach the propane tank to the grill and it leaks.
All of these examples have documented injuries to back them up. They aren’t crazy mishaps. They happen a lot.
Recently we came across an account of a barbecue-related accident that didn’t have anything to do with fire, and we thought we would pass on the information to you.
Over the course of 18 months, six patients were admitted to Rhode Island Hospital, and all of them had similar symptoms. They were suffering from either painful swallowing in the mouth and throat, or severe abdominal pain. Aside from the similar symptoms, they had all ingested grilled meat during the previous 24 hours.
So was this an infection? Was it underdone or spoiled meat? No. The doctors questioned the patients, various friends and family members and determined that just prior to being used, all of the grills in question were scrubbed clean with wire barbecue brushes. What was meant to be hygienic actually turned dangerous.
Many commercial grill brushes are made of steel wire. In the case of these six patients, they ingested single strands of wire that came loose on the grill surface and became embedded in the meat as it cooked.
The injuries were serious. Three of the patients had wires removed from their necks through surgery, two of them had wires puncture their small intestines, and the sixth patient actually had the wire puncture his liver.
Bear in mind that this was six people over 18 months at the same hospital. We haven’t come across any other reports from any other hospitals, so we aren’t sure if this is a nationwide problem, or if the brushes that hurt these people were defective and localized to Rhode Island, but both the frequency of the injuries and the gruesome nature of them was enough to get our attention.
We would urge you to do your research on grill brushes, and to avoid ones that use metal wires. There are plenty of plastic models available. But it is possible to clean a grill without using a brush at all. Next time you want to clean your grill, use an onion.
Don’t laugh, this works. You take a large onion and cut it in half. Then you light the coals and wait for the grill to get hot. Put the half of the onion in your long handled tongs and just scrub it back and forth over the grill. It does a fairly amazing job getting rid of all the black crust that is left over from the last barbecue.
Another method is to use aluminum foil. Take a big sheet of it, ball it up tightly, put it in your tongs and scrub back and forth. If foil ends up on the grill, it will be easy to spot, and even if people accidentally ingest a tiny bit the odds of them suffering any injuries from it are infinitesimal.
By all means, enjoy your summer and barbecue as much as you want, but exercise precautions and be safe. Nothing ruins a summer more than an extended stay in the hospital.
Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured due to products that were faulty, defective or dangerous. If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, contact Greenberg Bederman for afree consultation today.