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Lead Levels Near Notre Dame May Still Be Dangerously High

(Notre Dame de Paris; credit: Jerome Rouillon, Flickr Creative Commons)

The fire that destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caused the release of tons of toxic lead into the air, which later sunk to the ground as dust. Some administrative buildings in the area, as well as some soil samples, tested positive for high levels of lead, according to Premier.org. Last week, a child tested positive for high levels of lead in the blood , leading authorities to call for pregnant women and children under seven to be tested for lead contamination.

French officials had suggested that businesses and homes in the area use damp cloths to clean dust from surfaces and floors after the conflagration. Lead contamination in the areas surrounding the cathedral were up to 65 times the recommended limit following the fire, the AP reported. About 300 metric tons of lead melted from the roof and steeple during the blaze.

French environmental group Robin des Bois says public authorities are “not acting at all” in terms of the lead that melted from the cathedral. “The lead didn’t disappear, it’s impossible,” the organization’s spokesperson, Jacky Bonnemains, told CNN. The group has called on French authorities to implement a protocol for “health surveillance and environmental vigilance” in the area, and has asked that they detoxify the rubble and ash that resulted from the fire.

The local health authority had said that recent samples taken from the neighborhood had shown that the risk of lead exposure had “largely disappeared,” but it is looking into the situation to see if other factors besides the Notre Dame fire may have led to the child’s elevated lead levels.

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