Workers return to Notre Dame after toxic lead scare | News | DW | 19.08.2019
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Workers return to Notre Dame after toxic lead scare

Officials had closed the site after finding high levels of lead in the church. Environmental, health and labor groups have accused the government of downplaying the risk of lead contamination for locals and tourists.

Listen to audio 03:44

Inside Europe: Notre Dame health scare downplayed

Restoration work resumed at Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday after new safety measures had been agreed for construction workers at the gothic masterpiece, which was damaged and weakened in a massive fire in April.

The rebuilding of the Paris monument had been halted in July over concerns about the amount of lead in the air. Hundreds of tons of lead in the roof and steeple had melted in the blaze with winds spreading the particles well beyond the church grounds.

Residents and trade unions had accused the city of playing down the risk of lead poisoning, which can cause serious health problems.

An environmental group has filed a lawsuit alleging that officials failed to sufficiently contain the contamination.

New safety rules

The city's deputy mayor said all necessary measures would be taken to prevent health risks after health officials posted the results of new lead tests at schools and day care centers.

Strict rules have now been introduced for entering and leaving the reconstruction site. Workers are required to clean their clothing daily.

The French government's top official for the Paris region, Michel Cadot, approved the resumption of work after visiting the site.

"I saw that the different recommendations of the labor inspectors had been implemented," he said, adding the decontamination work would help keep contractors safe.

Read more: France's 'Robin Hood' NGO sues Paris for Notre Dame lead

Risk of collapse

Restoration of the cathedral has yet to begin with efforts focused entirely on securing the building.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a target of five years for the restoration to be finished.

But the culture ministry said the work would not even begin until next year, warning the structure is still at risk of collapse.

kw/rc (AFP, dpa) 

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