AFP-Jiji PARIS (AFP-Jiji) — Local authorities in Paris stressed Thursday that lead contamination from the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral posed no danger to the public after claims in a media report that pollution in local schools had been covered up.
Environmental groups warned soon after the disaster that 300 tons of lead in the roof of the Paris landmark had gone up in flames, posing a danger to residents in the area, particularly to children.
A report from the Mediapart investigative website on Thursday reported that high levels of the heavy metal — as much as 10 times higher than the safe limit — had been detected in schools and creches surrounding the cathedral.
But Deputy Paris Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire dismissed the article, saying that the author had misinterpreted the results of tests which showed that lead was well below the level considered a public health risk.
“If there was any risk, not only would schools not have reopened, but they will not reopen in September,” he told a news conference.
Mediapart said that Paris authorities had waited until May before conducting tests in the 10 creches and schools that are within 500 meters of the monument on the Ile de la Cite island in central Paris.
One test result — in the private Sainte-Catherine elementary school — showed lead at a level of 698 micrograms per square meter, 10 times higher than the 70-microgram limit which it said was considered potentially dangerous, it said.
But Gregoire said that the maximum legal level was 1,000 micrograms and that 70 micrograms merely indicated that public authorities needed to investigate.
“When you go past this level you have to put in place a certain number of measures, but ultimately there is no health risk,” he argued.
Earlier in the day, Paris health official Arnaud Gauthier had said that schools around the cathedral would undergo a “deep clean” over the summer holidays which would see all walls and furniture wiped and playgrounds hosed down.
Gregoire insisted this was normal procedure and nothing to do with the fire or lead contamination.
“That’s welcome — though doubtless too late” after pupils and teachers faced “more than two months of exposure,” commented Elisabeth Kutas, departmental secretary for the SNUipp-FSU schoolteachers’ union.Speech