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I remember a rumour from my youth in the late seventies / early eighties, that there was supposedly cadmium in older (relative to that time) Lego bricks.

Searching for Lego cadmium yields quite a lot of hits, but so far, nothing conclusive.
I also note that Lego has never recalled any old bricks, which I admit would be next to impossible: how would the general public be able to distinguish between older and newer bricks?

Has cadmium ever been used in Lego bricks? If so, in what quantities?

How about other toxic metals?

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    What an interesting question! I'm going to ask my older LEGO friends to see if anyone knows. – TheBrickBlogger Jan 28 '17 at 16:00
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I asked Gary Istok on your behalf in this Brickset Forum thread, who is an expert on LEGO's history. He said the following:

When LEGO replaced the Cellulose Acetate bricks circa 1963 with ABS plastic for non-trans parts, and polycarbonate for the trans ones, they had a problem with the red and yellow parts. For some reason (I'm not a chemical engineer)... red and yellow ABS parts were more difficult to color to TLG standards. So Bayer and Borg-Warner (the chemical companies that produced the ABS and other plastic pellets worldwide) added Cadmium, a heavy metal, as an additive to those 2 LEGO colors to help in the coloring process.

Although Cadmium will not leach out of the LEGO bricks of that era (kids could safely chew on those LEGO parts), the longer term landfill issues of Cadmium laced LEGO getting into the ground, did become an issue with environmentalists. So TLG had their plastics makers Borg-Warner (for USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland and Australia) and Bayer (for continental Europe and Asia) work on removing the cadmium from the red and yellow elements of that era. I don't know the chemical specifics of that action, but by 1973 LEGO parts were Cadmium free... and have remained so.

Next question.... can you tell Cadmium parts (1963-72) from Cadmium free parts? Generally yes... but it's easier for red bricks, which are a darker red color with Cadmium. Yellow LEGO parts with Cadmium are also a darker color, but the difference between Cadmium and Cadmium free yellow parts is less noticeable... especially with used or dirty yellow elements.

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Even in early 1980s there were some patches having Cadmium. I should link to the study but lost it now.

Here is somewhat proper reference:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5436922/second-hand-plastic-toys-including-lego-could-harm-children-with-toxic-chemicals/

Eating is something to avoid. Hand-to-mouth (hand skin licked) behaviour is not as fatal.

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