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France

Notre-Dame fire: Paris schools close for lead clean up

media Renovation work begins outside the rose window of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, 20 May 2019 STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Two holiday day-care centres located in schools in rue Saint-Benoit in central Paris, will stay closed next week, due to a high level of lead pollution attributed to the fire at the Notre-Dame cathedral in April.

The mayor for the 6th arrondissement, Jean-Pierre Lecoq said the children from the two schools concerned would be placed in a different establishment in nearby rue Littré until at least Thursday next week.

Lead over the acceptable level was found in dust in the outdoor playgrounds prompting the Paris townhall to close the schools out of precaution until cleaning and re-testing could go ahead.

The townhall will now call on specialised services to clean the playgrounds of these schools in order to bring the levels of lead down to less than 1,000 microgrammes, considered the standard reference level.

"The results are higher than 1 000 µg/m² (microgrammes), but are less than 5 000 µg/m²" a statement from the townhall said.

Dangerous for children

Since the fire on 15 April, the Regional Health Authority (ARS) carried out tests in a 500 metre radius around the cathedral and found high levels of lead to be present, this due to the fire melting large parts of metal in the roof of the church.

The World Health organisation notes that young children absorb four to five times more lead than adults because in their natural curiosity, they tend to put things they've picked up in their mouth.

In June, residents of the Ile de la Cité area closest to Notre-Dame were informed that health services would provide free lead testing, with a focus on young children and pregnant women in particular.

Worried parents

Many parents interviewed by AFP spoke of their concern over the lack of information over this issue, or the haphazard way they were informed.

"She simply told me they don't have any visibility", complains Lamine, a father of two describing the way a townhall employee responded to his inquiry of how long the school would be closed.

Another mother, Assia says she is worried. In light of recent information, she now wants to get her daughter tested for lead poisoning because of an unexplained fever, originally blamed on the flu.

Eight other Parisian schools in the 5th and 6th arrondissements are concerned by the townhall testing process.

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