Mr. Yuk celebrates his 50th birthday in 2021! The familiar green face was created at the Pittsburgh Poison Center in 1971. Dr. Richard Moriarty, the founder of the Pittsburgh Poison Center, wanted to create a symbol that could help prevent poisonings in children. The skull and crossbones symbol was being used to represent other activities, including the major league baseball team in Pittsburgh. Dr. Moriarty wanted to create a symbol specific to poisons and poison prevention. Below, we take a closer look at Mr. Yuk and his first 50 years.
Mr. Yuk’s Design
Dr. Moriarty carefully selected Mr. Yuk’s features based on lessons learned from focus groups with children. The fluorescent green color was chosen because, back in the 1970s, the color was quite shocking and uncommon. The scowling face with its tongue sticking out was also specially designed. The face was made to make sure children would equate Mr. Yuk with items they shouldn’t touch – items that are “yucky.”
Mr. Yuk Makes His Way to Maryland
Initial funding came from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland and the Randallstown Jaycees – a local civic group focused on community service. The Maryland Poison Center (MPC) started using Mr. Yuk in 1975. Local TV stations gave the MPC airtime to promote our services and the use of Mr. Yuk. Our director at the time, Dr. Gary Oderda, even appeared on a local Baltimore TV show with Oprah Winfrey. Billboards in the Baltimore metro area helped the MPC reach a wide audience. Educational programs also helped introduce folks to Mr. Yuk. Our educator spoke to employees at some of the larger employers in our service area. The MPC also hosted programs at local senior centers to teach grandparents about poison safety and how to introduce their grandchildren to Mr. Yuk.
Additional help from the Maryland Pharmacists Association and others in the health care community allowed Mr. Yuk to be introduced to even wider audiences. Together we raised awareness about childhood poisonings.
How to Use Mr. Yuk Stickers
Teach your children that if they see a Mr. Yuk sticker on an item that it means, “No, don’t touch.” It is important that children understand what it means before you put the stickers on potential poisons, such as medicines and cleaning products. A sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers is included in our free home poison safety packet for Marylanders, which can be requested on our website. Maryland-based organizations can also order Mr. Yuk stickers from our online store. Anyone outside of Maryland can order Mr. Yuk educational materials from the Pittsburgh Poison Center.
Help Us Celebrate Mr. Yuk’s Birthday
Check our Facebook and our Twitter pages during National Poison Prevention Week (March 21-27, 2021) as we celebrate Mr. Yuk’s birthday. Keep an eye out for interviews, historic photos, and trivia. Together with five other poison centers that use Mr. Yuk in their educational programs, we will be sharing the 50 years of Mr. Yuk’s history.
Please join us in our celebration!