Sunday, December 5

French Authorities Charged With “Gross Negligence” Over Notre Dame Lead Dust | Notre Dame


French and Paris authorities are facing new legal action over the worrying levels of lead around Notre Dame Cathedral in the wake of the devastating fire two years ago.

Lawyers for a branch of one of the most powerful unions in the country, which has forcibly joined with a health association and local residents, will present a court case on Tuesday for “endangering life … by unknown persons.”

The plaintiffs accuse authorities of “gross negligence,” which they say exposed city residents, particularly children and those working to restore the cathedral, to dangerous levels of toxic lead dust.

Notre Dame was badly damaged by a fire in April 2019, which melted the roof and spire and sent some 460 tons of lead into the air. After the conflagration, lead levels reached up to 500,000 micrograms per square meter (µg / m2) in the building’s outer courtyard and up to 20,000 µg / m2 in surrounding residential and tourist areas, many times higher than 5,000 µg / m2. . recommended by the Paris public health authorities.

A simulation by the National Institute for Industrial Environment suggested that the track could have extended as far as 50 kilometers from the cathedral.

The plaintiffs, which include a branch of the CGT union, say insufficient measures were taken to protect nearby workers and residents, as well as children in local schools, in the three months after the fire.

The Henri Pézerat Association, a union that has campaigned for health and the environment on behalf of the public and two families living near the cathedral, decided to take legal action after the labor inspection report pointed out the risk to workers recruited to clean up the site.

His lawyer, François Lafforge, said: “Recently, we finally got the reports from the construction inspection that showed that the measures to protect the workers, in particular, were not respected during all the months after the fire.”

Lafforge told FranceInter that radio requests for information from authorities had not received a response.

In May, immediately after the fire, police and authorities said the air around Notre Dame was non-toxic. However, in July 2019, the inspection told the regional organization that oversees the cleanup operation that workers at the site were at risk.

Among their concerns was that the workers had not been given masks to protect them from the risk of inhaling lead dust, and consequently they were taking the dust home. Testing of 82 local children revealed that 10 had lead levels above recommended levels.

This led to work being halted for a month earlier, when police sealed off the area around the cathedral to allow a 10-day “decontamination” operation to take place.

At the time, Annie Thébaud-Mony, research director at Inserm (the national institute for medical and health research), said lead contamination was concerning.

“We have to realize that the 400 tons of lead that was spread corresponds to four times the lead emissions in the whole of France during one year,” he said. “Lead is as bad as asbestos in terms of poison. At the time of the fire, the firefighters should have been better protected, in my opinion. The same happens with those who started working (in the cathedral) ”.

The case is the second legal action against the authorities for lead levels. In May, the paved area around Notre Dame was temporarily closed to the public again after high levels of lead were detected. It was reopened after being cleaned.

Lafforge said his clients wanted to bring up an issue that presented “a significant public health problem.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to have the cathedral open again by 2024.


www.theguardian.com

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