Young and pregnant urged to take blood tests for lead after Notre-Dame fire

Hundreds of tonnes of lead melted when the historic cathedral was burnt in April

The scaffoldings set up on Notre-Dame cathedral, under repair after it was badly damaged. AFP
The scaffoldings set up on Notre-Dame cathedral, under repair after it was badly damaged. AFP

Health authorities have urged children and pregnant women living around Notre-Dame cathedral to have lead levels in their blood checked amid concerns over the effects of April's blaze at the Paris landmark.

A child living on the Ile de la Cite in central Paris, where Notre-Dame stands, was found to have high levels of lead in a blood test.

Some of the hundreds of tonnes of lead in the spire and the roof melted in the extreme heat.

There is an investigation to see if the cause of the child's high lead levels could be other than the April 15 fire, the Paris regional health authority said late on Monday.

The child showed a level above the regulatory limit of 50 micrograms per litre of blood.

The authority said that "as a precaution" it was asking families with children aged under seven and pregnant women living on the Ile de la Cite to "consult their GP so they can be prescribed a blood test for lead levels".

Authorities acknowledge that the Notre-Dame fire caused lead to seep into the air and ground around the cathedral.

They say there is no general risk to the public but certain areas have been closed off, while people with apartments close to the cathedral are being given advice on how to clean up.

Paris remains shaken by the consequences of the damage to one of the city's best known and loved edifices.

The architect in charge of the restoration on Tuesday insisted that an identical spire should be built, after President Emmanuel Macron presented the idea of an "inventive" reconstruction.

The spire, designed by the celebrated 19th-century French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, collapsed as fire ravaged the cathedral.

"I think we don't just have to rebuild a spire, we have to rebuild it in an identical way," Philippe Villeneuve, a senior French architect in charge of restoration at Notre-Dame, told Le Figaro.

The government has announced an architectural competition for the spire with options to have a new one built, an identical restoration or no spire at all.

But Mr Villeneuve said: "The great thing about the masterpiece of Viollet-le-Duc is that it is timeless. It integrates into a medieval masterpiece of the 13th century.

"This is what we have to create again."

A YouGov survey published at the end of April showed that 54 per cent of French people questioned wanted an identical spire to be built while just 25 per cent were keen on a more modern replacement.

The issue has been one of acute political controversy in France, which is increasingly torn between respecting historical tradition and projecting a more modern, innovative image.

Supporters of a contemporary touch for the steeple point to the fact that the glass pyramid designed by IM Pei outside the Louvre museum in Paris was despised by many when it opened in 1989 but is now an attraction.

The French Senate debated and passed a bill on rebuilding Notre-Dame last month, said in the text that the restoration, including that of the spire, should be faithful to the "last visual state that was known".

Updated: June 4, 2019 11:20 PM

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