| Beaver County Times
March is Childhood Poison Prevention Month, which focuses our attention on the dangers of toxic substances around our homes. This year, with more stay-at-home time, awareness of chemicals and chemical storage becomes even more important.
Poison control centers receive calls of accidental poisonings about every 12 seconds and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over half of those calls involve children 12 and under. By nature, a young child is both curious and a mimic of adult behavior. So as parents, grandparents and caregivers, we need to be aware and take precautions to keep our little ones and all family members safe.
The concept of Mr. Yuk to teach poison prevention to young children originated at the Pittsburgh Poison Center of Children’s Hospital in 1971. The goal was to create an eye-catching symbol to alert children of harmful substances and to increase awareness of a 24-hour emergency hotline at the center. The green Mr. Yuk face was a favorite with children who called him ‘yucky.’ Mr. Yuk has become the national face of poison prevention along with a toll-free number 1-800-222-1222. Dialing that number routes you to the nearest poison center anywhere in the United States.
Since 2011, Penn State University, as part of its Pesticide Education Program, has partnered with Master Gardeners and continues to provide education to first-grade children about staying safe around toxic chemicals. This year, in response to the pandemic, the program has been recorded and is available to first-grade teachers. These recordings are fun presentations created by special MG volunteers and engage the children with their costumes, voices and antics while still imprinting the most important practices that will keep these children, their siblings and adults safe.
The children are introduced to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a way to understand and control “pests” in their environments such as poison ivy, weeds, lady beetles, bees, flies and mice. They learn that the reason some “pests” enter our home is to meet the same needs they have for food, water and shelter. Prevention practices of closing windows and doors, using screens, sealing small cracks and openings, cleaning up spilled food and “do not touch” are stressed to the children. Cultural, mechanical and biological practices that control some pests are discussed and demonstrated on screen.
In addition to learning to identify pests that may enter our homes or live in our gardens, children learn that some household products contain dangerous chemicals that are toxic and can make you sick if incorrectly used. The children learn what the signal words “warning, caution, danger and danger poison” mean if the product/chemical is accidentally swallowed, inhaled or splashed in the eyes or on the skin. Safe storage is demonstrated as “up high or down low with a lock” as well as the important practice that adults NEVER transfer a toxic chemical to an unlabeled container.
Each student is provided with a student packet containing Mr. Yuk stickers, word puzzles and homework. That homework requires an adult to help the child find potentially dangerous products in the home, to read the “signal word” on the container label, apply a Mr. Yuk sticker to the container and then safely store the container either “up high or down low with a lock.” The children are taught that these same safe practices will also protect other members of the family such as the elderly, little brothers or sisters and pets.
Children learn that if an accident happens, they should call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 and have the bottle/container of the product ready for questions from the poison control staff.
A round of “The Mr. Yuk Song” concludes the presentation.
For more information about the Penn State Pesticide Education Program contact Ginny Majewski, Master Gardener coordinator, or Laura Murphy, project co-chair, at [email protected]
Laura Murphy is a Master Gardener with Penn State Extension, Beaver County.
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