Dr. Richard Moriarty created the first Poison Control Center in Pittsburgh and the Mr. Yuk symbol.By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Fifty years ago, a Pittsburgh doctor created the Poison Control Center and the Mr. Yuk symbol.

When Dr. Richard Moriarty was a resident at UPMC Children’s Hospital, he realized the need for a Poison Control Center when a family got into a crash rushing to the hospital when they could have called ahead and learned the chemical was harmless.

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“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, even adults, are not going to cause any major problems,” Dr. Moriarty said.

Dr. Moriarty got foundation funding to create the first Poison Control Center in Pittsburgh and the Mr. Yuk symbol. He nixed the skull and crossbones image because it was the Pirates logo and instead got kids’ opinions about the Mr. Yuk expression and green color.

KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen asked 8-year-old Max McWhinney, “When you hear Mr. Yuk, what does that make you think?”

“I think it’s something dangerous, yucky,” McWhinney said.

That’s exactly what Dr. Moriarty wanted.

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When McWhinney was 10 months old, his grandmother, Fran Goodnack, saw him put something suspicious in his mouth.

“What is that (I thought), and when I pulled it out, I realized it was a stink bug. I was freaking out,” Goodnack said. “So I called Poison Control, and the lady was laughing and she said they’re not poisonous. Just brush his teeth.”

The stink bug story has become a family legend, but Goodnack 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.

“I actually had the sticker by my phone. So it was right there. I was able to call. My kids are 40 and 43, but they grew up with Mr. Yuk. We had the sticker on everything that was poisonous,” Goodnack said.

Dr. Moriarty said, “I think we saved a fair number of lives over the 50 years in existence and thanks to an awful lot of help.”

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The Poison Control Center number is 800-222-1222. Click here for more form the center.

Kristine Sorensen