Paris summer holiday camps shut down in Notre-Dame lead pollution scare

Two schools in the centre of Paris have been closed down amid ongoing fears of lead pollution stemming from he Notre-Dame fire.

Paris summer holiday camps shut down in Notre-Dame lead pollution scare
Photo: AFP

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.    

READ MORE: Paris schools near Notre-Dame given 'deep clean' over lead pollution fears

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.

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Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

France's Notre-Dame cathedral is finally ready to undergo restoration work more than two years after a blaze ravaged the heritage landmark, and remains on course to reopen in 2024, authorities said Saturday, following months of painstaking work to secure the building.

Notre-Dame restoration work begins as Paris cathedral on track to reopen in 2024

The great mediaeval edifice survived the inferno on April 15th, 2019, but the spire collapsed and much of the roof was destroyed.

The focus until now had been on making the cathedral safe before restoration work could begin, which included the strenuous task of removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that were damaged in the blaze.

“The cathedral stands solid on its pillars, its walls are solid, everything is holding together,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, head of the public entity tasked with rebuilding the cathedral.

Scaffolding in the interior of the building as the restoration phase begins. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / POOL / AFP

“We are determined to win this battle of 2024, to reopen our cathedral in 2024. It will be France’s honour to do so and we will do so because we are all united on this goal.”

The aim is to celebrate the first full service in the cathedral on April 16th, 2024 – five years after the fire – despite delays caused by the pandemic and the lead that spread during the blaze.

The Notre-Dame spire, a later addition to the medieval building, was completely destroyed in the blaze. Photos by AFP

Authorities will now call for tenders to select the companies to carry out the restoration work.

The cathedral’s interior walls and floors will also undergo “a thorough cleaning process” later this month.

Notre-Dame’s famous Grand Organ is already being restored, with its 8,000 pipes dismantled and sent to organ builders all over France.

It is expected to be put together again in October 2023, said Georgelin, the former head of France’s armed forces who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to oversee rebuilding efforts.