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Whatever happened to Mr. Yuk?

March 19, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
Do you remember Mr. Yuk? I remember him from elementary school. He was on a round, green sticker like a smiley face, except his eyes were squeezed shut and his tongue stuck out because he tasted something nasty. Parents were told to put the stickers on anything poisonous in the house, and kids were told not to drink or eat anything with Mr. Yuk on it.

It worked. You didn't have to know how to read to get Mr. Yuk's message. Kids as young as 2 could be taught about him, especially if older siblings were around to reinforce the message. Older siblings LOVE to flaunt their vast knowledge to the baby of the family.

I didn't realize until I googled it today, but Mr. Yuk was created by the Pittsburgh Poison Center. If you go to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Web site, you can even listen to the Mr. Yuk song — "Mr. Yuk is mean. Mr. Yuk is green. When you see him, stop and think. Do not smell, do not drink, do not touch, do not eat or you will be sick. Sick, sick sick! Sick, sick, sick!"

The site sells Mr. Yuk brochures, stickers, pencils, bracelets and even T-shirts, mostly in bulk for schools, etc.

To order one free sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to: Mr. Yuk Pittsburgh Poison Center UPMC 200 Lothrop Street BIR 010701 Pittsburgh, PA 15213

YouTube even has a circa-1971 commercial. The person who posted it said it scared him to death when he was a kid. Watching it just now, I don't remember it, but it truly is frightening!

Of course, you should lock up or put out of reach anything that might be poisonous, but that's not always possible, not to mention, convenient. The stickers are still a great idea. Makes me think perhaps I could put Mr. Yuk on some other things I want to keep Emma out of, like the Girl Scout cookies!

In all seriousness, children are still getting poisoned every day, sometimes fatally. Would you believe 10 percent of all calls to poison hotlines involving children ages 6 and under in 2007 were related to cosmetics/personal care products? Plus, look at the household cleaners packaged to look like bottles of sports drinks! (Case in point, Fabuloso. How many of you, be honest, have walked past a shelf of this cleaner and almost grabbed a bottle thinking it was PowerAde?) And honestly, didn't you just cringe when you heard about the daycare in Louisiana where the kids were served windshield wiper fluid? I though, oh man, that could happen to anyone!

Then there are the poisonings I keep reading about where babies and toddlers have ingested their parents' prescription or illicit drugs.

Perhaps pharmacies could team up with Poison Control to have Mr. Yuk stickers available to all customers? I don't think the drug dealers are going to offer the same service, but maybe volunteers could stick a sheet of stickers on the porches of known crack houses in town? It's a thought.

The thought of Emma getting poisoned by something in our house chills me to the bone. I have the poison control hotline number saved in my cell phone — 1-800-222-1222. You never know!

This is National Poison Prevention Week. For tips from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, visit

Two common-sense tips that somehow get overlooked by some parents: * Avoid taking medicine in front of children because they often copy adults, and

* Do not call medicine "candy."


Article Comments



Mar-11-14 4:21 AM

Perhaps Mr Yuk would have become a universal sign of poison if the Pittsburgh hospital had released it to the public domain instead of turning it into a source of revenue.


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