Kidsburgh: The Legend Behind Pittsburgh's Own Mr. Yuk

KDKA's Kristine Sorensen has more in Kidsburgh.

Video Transcript

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- 50 years ago, a local doctor created the Poison Control Center and the Mr. Yuk symbol. In tonight's Kidsburgh story, Kristine Sorensen talks with the creator and shows us how it's helping kids around the country stay safe.

KRISTINE SORENSEN: Max McWhinney is eight now, but when he was 10 months old, his grandmother Fran Goodnack saw him put something suspicious in his mouth.

FRAN GOODNACK: What is that? And when I pulled it out I realized it was a stinkbug. I was freaking. So I called poison control. Lady was laughing, she said they're not poisonous, brush his teeth.

KRISTINE SORENSEN: The stinkbug story has become family legend in scrapbooks. But Fran is still grateful to have had the Poison Control Center to call for help and the stickers to warn her kids and grandson about dangerous household items.

FRAN GOODNACK: I actually had the sticker by my phone. So it was right there, I was able to call. I mean, my kids are 40 and 43 but they grew up with Mr. Yuk. We had the sticker so that everything under the thing that was poisonous, you just put that sticker on.

KRISTINE SORENSEN: 50 years ago, Dr. Richard Moriarty realized the need for a true Poison Control Center when he was a resident at UPMC Children's Hospital. A family got in a crash while rushing to the hospital when they could have called ahead and learned that the chemical the child ingested was harmless.

DR. RICHARD MORIARTY: It was clear to me that we needed to let people know that there was a Poison Center because, frankly, most things that kids get into-- or even adults-- are not going to cause them any major problems.

- Poison Center, how can I help you?

KRISTINE SORENSEN: Dr. Moriarty got foundation funding to create the first Poison Control Center in Pittsburgh and the Mr. Yuk symbol, both which became national. He nixed the skull and crossbones image because it was the pirate's logo, and instead got kids opinions about the Mr. Yuk expression and green color.

When you hear "Mr. Yuk," what does that make you think?

MAX MCWHINNEY: I think it's something that's gross. Something that's dangerous. Yucky.

DR. RICHARD MORIARTY: I think we've saved a fair number of lives over the 50 years that Mr. Yuk has been in existence. But we certainly have had-- I've had-- an awful lot of help.

KRISTINE SORENSEN: Put the poison control center number in your phone-- 800-222-1222. And when you see that menacing face telling you not to eat something, know that it all started right here in Pittsburgh 50 years ago. For Kidsburgh, I'm Kristine Sorensen, KDKA News.