The schools – which were hosting summer holiday camps for 180 children in the centre of Paris – have been closed amid lead contamination worries.
High levels of lead were detected after the devastating fire that ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral in April. Today, following the schools' closing, top government officials in Paris have ordered the restoration work on the monument be stopped for a week as anti-contamination measures were not tight enough and “not being sufficiently applied”.
Prefect Michel Cadot told reporters that the site would be closed until new safety measures were implemented. He said that even though health and safety inspectors gave prior warning about their visits, they found safety rules were not being “systematically applied”.
Environmental groups warned soon after the disaster that 300 tonnes of lead in the historic church's roof had gone up in flames, posing health risks to residents in the area, and particularly to children.
But authorities last week stressed that lead contamination from the blaze posed no danger to the public following a media report claiming that it had covered up pollution levels in local schools.
Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire in April. Photo: AFP
French investigative website Mediapart said that high levels of lead had been detected in schools and creches surrounding Notre-Dame. Although tests for its presence had not been carried out until May, weeks after the monument’s fall, despite the government’s warning homeowners in the district to wipe down surfaces to avoid illness.
City hall closed the sites in Paris's 6th arrondissement “as a precautionary measure” after tests revealed high levels of lead in the playground, a spokesperson for city hall told AFP.
City hall ordered a “deep clean” at schools near Notre-Dame last week, with walls and furniture to be wiped and playgrounds hosed down over the summer holidays.
Paris health official Arnaud Gauthier said the clean was “to reassure us that the risk is minimal”, although Deputy Paris Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire insisted it was normal procedure and nothing to do with the fire or lead contamination.