Mr. Yuk turns 50

He’s mean, he’s green, and he’s turning 50!

Mr. Yuk, the iconic sticker with the green face sticking out his tongue, has been a symbol of danger on bottles in kitchens and bathrooms since 1971. Created at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh by Dr. Richard Moriarty, Lawrenceville native and Pitt graduate, the sticker is still in use today to label poisonous substances.

Moriarty created the sticker as part of poison prevention education, warning all of us against ingesting poisonous substances. The 50th anniversary will be celebrated during National Poison Prevention Week from March 21-27.

According to Pittsburgh Poison Center of UPMC, the design came about as a replacement for the skull and crossbones symbol being used nationwide to identify products that were potentially poisonous. After the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team started using the skull and crossbones symbol, “children, particularly in the Pittsburgh area, started to associate the skull and crossbones symbol with the Pittsburgh Pirates and its efficacy as a poison prevention symbol began to wane.”

In 1971, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh opened its first poison center headed by Moriarty and after an increase in childhood poisonings throughout the Pittsburgh area, the group enlisted Dick Garber of the Vic Maitland & Associates Group to develop an effective symbol.

In the end, the neon green sick face was chosen and named Mr. Yuk after one of the participants said, “he looks yucky”. The symbol was designed to give children pause when seeing it and to provide parents with the phone number for the Poison Center.

The stickers started to be distributed all over the country and by 1979, 50 million stickers were being distributed annually. A Mr. Yuk commercial was aired in 1975 during the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings.

Stickers can be ordered online.