Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Adopted in Washington State: 1973
Mr. Yuk was created in 1971 by the Pittsburgh Poison Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. It is copyrighted for teaching poison safety.
Studies showed that the skull and crossbones, used to mark poisons, had little meaning for the children of the 1970’s. The symbol had been in movies, cartoons, commercial products and amusement parks to show happy, exciting things like pirates and adventure. Moreover, the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team used the symbol as its team logo causing the Pittsburgh Poison Center to seek an alternative.
Children at daycare centers were shown six different symbols on identical bottles of mouthwash often found in family homes. The symbols included a red stop sign, the skull and crossbones and what later became known as Mr. Yuk.
At the beginning of the test, each child was told that he might find bottles like this at home and was asked to show the bottle he would not play with.
The symbol that was least attractive to the children was Mr. Yuk.
The most popular symbol was, in fact, the skull and crossbones.
One little boy, who did not pick up a bottle marked with the green, scowling-face, didn’t because “He looks yucky!” And so Mr. Yuk was named.
The Washington Poison Center, which was then the Seattle Poison Center at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, was the first poison center outside of Pittsburgh to adopt Mr. Yuk as its poison warning symbol for families and the general public in 1973.
Mr. Yuk is used in many states and a few other countries. Last year, millions of stickers were distributed nationwide.
Today, the Mr. Yuk sticker is used by people young and old. It is a reminder to parents to keep items out reach of children. It is used by older adults to keep the number on medication bottles in case they need help. Adults must remember that children, even if taught to stay away, should never be in reach of any poisons.
Each Mr. Yuk sticker has the poison center’s toll-free phone number, which will route you to the poison center serving the area from where you are calling.
Call 1-800-222-1222 for a sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers for your home. Mr. Yuk stickers are also available at many pharmacies.
See our Materials page to order large quantities of Mr. Yuk stickers, magnets or other educational supplies.