Beverly Smith demonstrated in her kitchen how easily bristles were shed from a barbecue brush. File photo from Red Deer Advocate

Woman injured by barbecue brush bristle hopes for new safety standards

Red Deer nurse still feeling the health effects after a wire bristle pierced her bowel last October

Beverly Smith is still recuperating nine months after an almost invisible wire barbecue brush pierced her bowel.

“As far as getting better, I’m still working on it,” said Smith, a nurse at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “I still have some problems. It will probably last the rest of my life.”

Smith was rushed into an operating room for emergency surgery last October when the tiny piece of metal lodged in her digestive tract causing what could have been a fatal injury.

Soon after, she went public with her story, urging barbecue brush owners to be aware of the risks and calling on Health Canada to do something.

The government opted not to ban the brushes outright. However, in April the Standards Council of Canada released a request for proposals to establish a new standard with the goal of protecting consumers.

Smith is glad that the government appears to be taking the issue seriously because it has not gone away since her traumatic experience.

“It’s sad that a lot of other people have been hurt since then.”

Just three weeks ago, a Manitoba began coughing after a meal of barbecue ribs and had to be rushed to hospital. Doctors found a wire bristle lodged in his esophagus.

Health Canada has received more than 60 reports of barbecue brush incidents since 2004, including nearly 50 that caused injuries.

Smith hopes that standards will be introduced that will keep off the market brushes that easily shed their bristles as hers did. She demonstrated the danger last year when she ran her hand along the head of a brush purchased at a major chain and dozens of bristles fell on to her counter.

“What should come out of this is (the brushes) will be strong and they will do some testing. Hopefully, this is going to come soon.”

There appear to be more barbecue cleaning options on store shelves than previously. She knows of a Red Deer man who is selling wooden scrapers, as is a Newfoundland entrepreneur. She told the Newfoundland man that she hoped he sold millions.

Smith said she has no regrets going public with her story.

“None at all.

“I wish I wouldn’t have had to go through this. I’m just glad that people are aware enough that they can make a choice now, whatever choice it is.”

Besides ongoing digestive problems, her ordeal has left another unfortunate legacy.

“I will always have a fear of barbecues.”

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