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France

French authorities closely monitoring lead poisoning after Notre-Dame fire

media Flames and huge clouds of smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15 April, 2019. (Fouad Maghrane / AFP)

Following the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, 175 children have been tested for lead poisoning and two of them were found to be over the accepted threshold. An environmental group filed a lawsuit accusing the authorities of failing to contain the lead contamination.

The Ile de France Regional Health Agency (ARS) found that two children had more than 50 microgrammes of lead per litre of blood. 16 out of the 175 children tested were in the 25 to 49 microgrammes category which means that they will need to be monitored but they are not in danger.

An environmental investigation, at the residence of one the two children tested positive, showed that he was exposed to lead pollution prior to the fire. His sister’s tests came in below 25 microgrammes.

When the fire at Notre Dame de Paris cathedral broke out on 15 April, over 400 tons of lead in the roof and steeple melted, releasing lead particles that later settled on surrounding streets and buildings.

Two schools, operating in the Notre Dame neighbourhood, were shut down on 25 July after tests found lead levels above 5,000 microgrammes per square metre. The schools were running a summer holiday programme for children.

Robin des Bois, a French activist group, filed the lawsuit in Paris High Court in July alleging that health agencies as well as national and city officials had failed to address the dangers caused by the fire.

"Authorities should have broadcast ... live information to encourage people to evacuate [the areas] where several thousand gathered to watch and incite residents of the neighbourhood to close their windows and leave their balconies.

"Everyone watched like it was a firework without understanding that this odourless, beige and yellow smoke was toxic," said Jacky Bonnemains, a spokesman for Robin de Bois.

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