Childhood deaths from poisonings have decreased sharply since Mr. Yuk was created 35 years ago

March 20, 2006

He was born 35 years ago with a face only a parent could love - a scowling green frown that has protected millions upon millions of curious children worldwide against poisoning dangers.

Mr. Yuk, the internationally recognized poison prevention symbol, turns 35 just in time for national Poison Prevent Week (March 19 - 25). He was created at the Pittsburgh Poison Center (PPC) at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in 1971.

Two events during the early 1970s - the advent of Mr. Yuk and the development of child-resistant medicine caps - have led to a drastic reduction in the number of deaths from accidental poisonings, according to Edward P. Krenzelok, PharmD, director of the PPC.

"Up until the early 1970s, as many as three to five children in the Pittsburgh region were dying each year as a result of accidental poisonings," said Dr. Krenzelok, director of the PPC since 1982. "Due in large part to poison prevention program Mr. Yuk has made famous and the development of child-resistant caps, there have been less than five accidental poisoning fatalities in Pittsburgh over the last 30 years."

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 30 children nationwide die each year from accidental poisonings and more than 2.4 million poisonings are reported to poison centers across the United States annually.

Three decades ago, marketing executives at Children's were looking to create an eye-catching symbol that would alert children to harmful substances and create awareness for the 24-hour emergency hotline at the PPC. Several symbols were tested, but it was the neon green Mr. Yuk that children loathed most, with one child labeling him "yucky."

Since then, Mr. Yuk has become the face of the nation's first and largest poison prevention program. More than 42 million Mr. Yuk stickers are distributed around the world annually. Mr. Yuk now bears the national, toll-free number to call in a poisoning emergency, 1-800-222-1222. Dialing the number routes the caller to the nearest poison control center anywhere in the United States.
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The PPC is one of only two poison control centers in Pennsylvania and serves all of western Pennsylvania. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week by highly trained clinical toxicology nurse specialists. The center serves 5.1 million residents in 44 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, and receives more than 119,000 calls annually.

For more information on the PPC, or to hear an audio clip of the Mr. Yuk theme song, please visit www.chp.edu.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

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