Paris’ Notre-Dame square closed due to health fears over lead levels

The Paris prefecture announced on Monday that it would temporarily close the square in front of the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral due to a "concentration of lead-laced dust above the usual level for Paris".

Paris' Notre-Dame square closed due to health fears over lead levels
The 2019 fire released lead particles that settled in potentially dangerous amounts in areas surrounding the church. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

Levels of lead in the area have been under observation since the fire that ravaged the cathedral – and melted the lead on its historic roof – in April 2019.

Since then there have been several closures of certain areas, and of schools nearby, when levels of lead have caused concern.

The most recent decision was made “after consulting with the regional health agency of Île-de-France for precaution measures,” the prefecture told Franceinfo.

The square in front of the cathedral reopened on March 31st 2020, but the cathedral itself remains closed while works are ongoing to restore it.

Pedestrian and vehicle traffic is now prohibited within the perimeter while its is cleaned.

READ ALSO: French health officials warn of lead pollution risks after Notre-Dame blaze

“When we have cleaned and the numbers have returned to a low enough level, the square will be open to the public again,” the prefecture said.

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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.