Mr. Yuk

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I have fond memories of Mr. Yuk from my childhood. My parents placed the green-yucky-face stickers on various items under the kitchen sink, and sure enough, I never drank drain cleaner. But where did Mr. Yuk come from?

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Yuk is from Pittsburgh, and was introduced in 1971. Prior to 1971, poison symbols were commonly of the skull-and-crossbones variety, but there was concern that children might associate that "jolly roger" symbol with pirates. This article further explains that in the early 70's, the skull-and-crossbones was also the logo for the Pittsburgh Pirates, so I can see how kids might not associate it with something they should NOT touch. The poison center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh designed the Mr. Yuk logo and distributed the stickers (which also typically contain a phone number to reach a local or national poison control hotline -- for the record, the national number is 1-800-222-1222), and at least in my experience, these stickers were widespread as late as the mid-1980's.

Much more -- including freaky 70's videos -- after the jump.

Several studies have attempted to measure the effectiveness of Mr. Yuk. Unfortunately, the studies indicate that Mr. Yuk is not very effective at preventing children from handling Yuk-labeled bottles -- one indicated that children actually handled the Yuk-labeled bottles more, possibly because of the cartoonish appearance of the sticker. The other showed no significant difference between Yuk-labeled and non-labeled bottles. Well, that's a bummer. It's unclear from the study summaries whether education for the kids (explaining not to touch things labeled with Mr. Yuk) would have affected the outcome.

One thing I missed as a kid was this Mr. Yuk Public Service Announcement (slash spooky drug trip) from 1971. Prepare to be freaked out:

For Mr. Yuk superfans, here's the extended version of the song from the PSA above (you can also download an MP3):

You can get a free sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers from the Mr. Yuk page (warning: plays a brief theme song!) at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. You can also order Lance Armstrong-style green "poison help" wristbands. Um. "Yuk."

A question for current parents of young kids: is Mr. Yuk on any items in your house?

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July 30, 2007 - 1:35am
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