Notre Dame cathedral's surrounding streets to be decontaminated of lead

Some of the streets around Notre Dame Cathedral will be decontaminated to ensure locals and workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of lead following the April blaze that left the Paris historic landmark gutted.

Renovation work at the cathedral was halted last month over fears that workers could be exposed to lead poisoning after testing revealed dangerously high levels of contamination at the site and surrounding areas.

Health ministers in Paris said last week that a young boy needs medical monitoring because tests conducted showed that he was at risk of lead poisoning. A total of 162 children have been tested in Paris after hundreds of tons of lead in Notre Dame’s spire and roof melted in the blaze.

Workers install high fences on a bridge around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Workers are preparing to decontaminate some Paris streets surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral that have been tested with high levels of lead following the April blaze that damaged the landmark.

Workers install high fences on a bridge around Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Workers are preparing to decontaminate some Paris streets surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral that have been tested with high levels of lead following the April blaze that damaged the landmark. (AP)

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Of those, 16 were deemed to be just short of being “at-risk” and will also be monitored as a precaution, the Associated Press reported last week.

The results "show, on the one hand, the need to keep cleaning to limit the risk of exposure of the children to lead and, on the other hand, the importance of extending blood tests," the health authority said.

Authorities in June recommended blood tests for children under 7 and pregnant women who live near Notre Dame as they are especially vulnerable to health problems from lead poisoning and exposure.

Critics have said authorities did not move fast enough to protect workers and residents from lead pollution.

Tourists in a boat pass under a bridge near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Workers are preparing to decontaminate some Paris streets surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral that have been tested with high levels of lead following the April blaze that damaged the landmark. 

Tourists in a boat pass under a bridge near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Workers are preparing to decontaminate some Paris streets surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral that have been tested with high levels of lead following the April blaze that damaged the landmark.  (AP)

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On Tuesday, high fences blocked Parisians and tourists from several streets and a bridge around the Gothic cathedral.

New equipment – including decontamination units – and stricter safety procedures have been implemented to ensure workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of led. Paris authorities said this will prevent “any release of polluting elements to the outside.”

A worker sprays an adhesive product on the ground to gather up the lead particles in the schoolyard of Saint Benoit primary school in Paris, France, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Workers have started decontaminating some Paris schools tested with unsafe levels of lead following the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral, as part of efforts to protect children from risks of lead poisoning. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

A worker sprays an adhesive product on the ground to gather up the lead particles in the schoolyard of Saint Benoit primary school in Paris, France, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Workers have started decontaminating some Paris schools tested with unsafe levels of lead following the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral, as part of efforts to protect children from risks of lead poisoning. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

The culture ministry, who’s in charge of Notre Dame, said workers plan to use two decontamination techniques. One involves spreading a gel on public benches, street lights, and other fixtures to absorb the lead, letting it dry for several days before removing it.

Last week, workers dressed in head-to-toe hazmat suits sprayed a blue-green gel onto a playground at the two closed schools on the Rue Saint-Benoit, where dozens of children had been attending summer daycare programs.

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A worker sprays an adhesive product on the ground to gather up the lead particles in the schoolyard of Saint Benoit primary school in Paris, France, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Workers have started decontaminating some Paris schools tested with unsafe levels of lead following the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral, as part of efforts to protect children from risks of lead poisoning.

A worker sprays an adhesive product on the ground to gather up the lead particles in the schoolyard of Saint Benoit primary school in Paris, France, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Workers have started decontaminating some Paris schools tested with unsafe levels of lead following the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral, as part of efforts to protect children from risks of lead poisoning. (AP)

The other technique involves high-pressure water jets with chemical agents.

Levels of lead remain exceptionally high at some spots inside the cathedral and in the soil of the adjacent streets, park, and forecourt, according to the regional health agency. Those areas have been closed to the public since April 15.

However, no dangerous levels have been registered in other nearby streets, where tourists and residents continue to gather and souvenir shops and restaurants have reopened.

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The cleanup work inside Notre Dame, suspended last month for safety reasons, will resume next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.