September 01, 2019

Five Parisian schools delay reopening due to lead from Notre-Dame fire
The Paris education authority has ordered five private schools which were to have re-opened on Monday after the summer holiday to remain closed until toxic lead from the Notre-Dame fire is removed. All schools in areas near the cathedral were deep-cleaned during the holidays after unsafe levels of lead were detected exceeding 70 micrograms per square metre. Health inspectors have given state schools the green light to reopen but say the five private schools, run by the Roman Catholic church, still require more thorough decontamination. More than 400 tonnes of lead from Notre-Dame’s roofing and spire melted and were dispersed as air-borne dust during the fire in April. Lead is particularly toxic to young children. The city authorities were in charge of removing lead from state schools and nurseries. Church officials responsible for the private schools were not immediately available to comment on whether the order to delay the start of term was justified. One of the five schools concerned has been criticised for failing to test for lead or carry out decontamination until a court order was issued.  Environmental groups have also accused the Paris authorities of playing down the risk. But Emmanuel Grégoire, a deputy mayor, said that the authorities had in fact done more than required by law. “There was no obligation, but we still decided to invest €200,000 (more than £180,000) to replace flooring [in state schools],” he said. Workers wearing chemical protection suits and goggles decontaminated school buildings, playgrounds and nurseries during the holidays. In the cathedral itself, work on shoring up the structure was suspended for three weeks this summer while stricter safety procedures were put in place at the demand of labour inspectors concerned about the health risks to workers who were removing lead. Environmental groups have been campaigning for a special decontamination unit to be set up a local hospital and for systematic testing of residents and workers in central areas near Notre-Dame.
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