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August 23, 2019

Paris streets closed off, to be cleaned following lead contamination after Notre Dame fire

August 14, 2019

Workers install fencing in front of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris before a decontamination work on Tuesday. (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Paris streets were closed off on Tuesday in preparation for cleaning following lead contamination from the Notre Dame fire.

When a devastating fire ravaged the 850-year-old cathedral on April 15, hundreds of tons of lead melted in the blaze, sparking concern after nearby areas measured for high levels of the element.

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Fences were put up to keep out residents and tourists, and several streets and a bridge around the cathedral were blocked off in Paris on Tuesday in preparation for the decontamination.

A worker sprays a gel on the ground to absorb lead as he takes part in a clean-up operation at Saint Benoit school near Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris during a decontamination operation on Aug. 8.
A worker sprays a gel on the ground to absorb lead as he takes part in a clean-up operation at Saint Benoit school near Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris during a decontamination operation on Aug. 8. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

The culture ministry said that two decontamination methods will be used, including high pressure water jets filled with chemical agents and a gel spread on public spaces including benches, street lights and other areas. The gel, which will dry over a period of several days before it is removed, will help absorb the lead.

Recently, 162 children were tested for lead poisoning amid concern over lead pollution in the area surrounding Notre Dame cathedral. Paris’ Regional Health Agency announced that some public areas near the cathedral measured around 5,000 micrograms per square meter, increasing concerns over potential lead poisoning.

This picture taken on Aug. 6 shows asphalt waste materials during a clean-up operation over lead poisoning fears at Saint Benoit school near Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.
This picture taken on Aug. 6 shows asphalt waste materials during a clean-up operation over lead poisoning fears at Saint Benoit school near Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

A deep cleaning of schools was ordered mid-July. Following the order, organization Robin des Bois filed a lawsuit, claiming human life was purposefully endangered and that protective measures should have been taken immediately following the blaze.

Paris authorities said the schools surrounding Notre Dame will be fully decontaminated and safe when kids return to classes in early September.

Police reports found that areas of the roof of the cathedral measured between 10 and 20 grams per kilogram following the fire — between 32 and 65 times over the limit. Officials hold a limit at 0.3 grams per kilogram.

Police officers remove electric scooters from the area around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday. Authorities started clearing the area around Notre Dame ahead of decontamination and cleanup work which will resume on Aug. 19 after new equipment and stricter safety procedures ensure workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of lead.
Police officers remove electric scooters from the area around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday. Authorities started clearing the area around Notre Dame ahead of decontamination and cleanup work which will resume on Aug. 19 after new equipment and stricter safety procedures ensure workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of lead. (Lewis Joly/AP)

After the streets are cleaned, officials will determine if the zone needs to be expanded if other areas were polluted by lead in the blaze. Decontamination operations are expected to take about three weeks, but that does not mark the end of the cleanup.

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Rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral

To ensure pollution does not spread as workers begin to reconstruct the cathedral, work is being done on the decontamination zone. On Aug. 19, it is expected workers will be able to return and continue reconstruction work on Notre Dame.

With News Wire Services.

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