12 Ways Your Backyard Barbecue Can Kill You
Before you throw the burgers and dogs on the fire and toss a few drinks back, learn how to avoid a dangerous accident in the middle of your outdoor celebration
When we called to ask a spokesman for the National Barbecue Association about the ways a barbecue grill can kill you, he seemed confused and, frankly, a little disturbed. "Actually," he told us, "we're really more about the fun side of grilling—barbecue competitions and things like that. We don't really deal with the dark stuff."
Well the dark stuff is just what we're looking at here, folks. From exploding propane tanks to cancer-laden briskets, we've researched the many ways that unassuming Hibachi in your backyard can lead to your untimely demise. Sorry if the following info leads to a barbecue buzz kill—we're just looking out for you.
Wash your hands, buy your meat from a reputable butcher, and make sure you cook it all the way through. That's the best advice we can give you on how not to be among the 87 million Americans who get food poisoning each year. Those poisonings result in around 5,700 deaths, too.
Prefer your steaks well done? Then you might be toast. Researchers from the University of Texas have found that eating a lot of overcooked meat increases your risk of bladder cancer. The reason? Cooking meat until it's charred can form cancer-causing chemicals. The study found that those who had diets rich in well-done meats were twice—yes, twice!—as likely to develop bladder cancer than those who prefer a little red in their meat.
Using charcoal to cook your grillables is pretty safe. It's when you do lame-brained things like burn it inside (say in your garage on a rainy day) that things get ugly. Thanks to the carbon monoxide charcoal gives off while its burning, about 400 of us are sent to the emergency room each year after cooking with it in closed confines, leading to about 20 deaths. This kind of thing mostly happens mostly during the winter, when snow and ice storms cause people to lose power and fire up their grills inside. Not good, people. Not good.
While grill fires on residential properties result in a small number of deaths each year, they do cause 100 injuries, and a whopping $37 million in damage. Keep in mind that about 32 percent of grill fires occur on patios, terraces and screened in porches. Be safe by placing your grill at least ten feet from any combustible walls, overhangs, or fences.
One of the key symptoms of alcohol poisoning is a lack of response to painful stimuli. So if you see your beer-basted grill master mindlessly turning the steaks with his hands, keep an eye on him; he might have alcohol poisoning. All joking aside, more than 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year, and at least once a week in this country, one of us drinks ourselves straight into the Sweet Hereafter.
"Oy," your Uncle Adi might say at your next barbecue. "It's so hot out here, I'm gonna have a heat stroke!" Go ahead and roll your eyes at poor Adi, but the truth is he might be right. Heat related illnesses—from cramps to strokes—happen when your body's ability to dissipate heat is overtaken by high temperatures. According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control, 3,342 people died of heat sicknesses from 1999 to 2003. And remember, those with a history of cardiovascular disease are particularly susceptible to heat strokes.
Don't let that palm-tree-printed shirt you're donning turn into a tropical forest fire. Loose clothing can blow or billow right into your grill fire, making a pleasant backyard barbecue memorable for all the wrong reasons.
We know it's fun and all, but never squirt lighter fluid into an already healthy grill fire. The flames can flashback into the container and explode right in your hands.
There's nothing like watching children gamboling around the backyard during a Fourth of July barbecue with sparklers in their hands. That is until one of them catches fire. While we all love fireworks, they send around ten thousand of us to the hospital each year, and cause a dozen or so of us to see a different kind of light in the sky.
Speaking of fireworks, don't let your propane tank become one. The National Fire Protection Agency says propane-related grilling accidents cause more than 6,000 fires and explosions annually, resulting in 20,000 ER visits, and at least 20 deaths. Since propane expands in extreme heat, be sure to keep tanks out of your car. If you smell gas, or if your tank runs out after only a few uses, apply soapy water to the valve base and tank seams. If the solution bubbles, there's a leak. So stand back and call the fire department. Be sure to check for leaks every time you change the tank.
Turkey frying might be one of those things best left to the experts. That's because, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, so many things—so, so many things—can go wrong when we do it ourselves. From burns caused by splattering oil, to turkeys that literally explode while being submerged into gallons of white-hot oil. Oh, and while we figure you guys are smart enough to figure this out yourselves, never—and we mean NEVER—use a turkey fryer indoors.
Getting stung by a wasp or a bee is one of the most unpleasant sensations known to man. But as we all know, for some of us, it can be downright deadly. About 100 Americans die each year due to allergic reactions to insect bites or stings. If you're allergic, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, keep emergency supplies, like adrenaline, on hand, and try not to walk around with sweet beverage in hand, since bees love them as much as we do.