PARIS (AFP) – Local authorities in Paris stressed on Thursday that lead contamination from the fire at the 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 tonnes 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 metres 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 microgrammes per square metre, 10 times higher than the 70-microgramme limit which it said was considered potentially dangerous, it said.
But Gregoire said that the maximum legal level was 1,000 microgrammes and that 70 microgrammes merely indicated that public authorities needed to investigate.