Mr. Yuk

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?

Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows

We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

Live Smarter
Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants

In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]


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