Toxic Lead Fallout Levels From Notre Dame Fire Higher Than Initially Thought, Study Shows

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The fire that destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April 2019 left huge amounts of dangerous lead dust deposited around the area. The amount of toxic lead was in far greater amounts than what was previously thought, a new study suggested.

The structure’s roof and spire were reportedly covered in around 460 tons of lead.

According to a new study, a huge amount of lead, a neurotoxic metal very dangerous particularly to children, was deposited within the vicinity after the fire. 

Researchers analyzed 100 soil samples taken from areas around the cathedral and found that about 2,200 pounds of lead dust settled within a one-kilometer radius. This is six times more than the present estimate for lead fallout inside 12 miles of the area.

They also found that in areas where the wind carried smoke from the burning cathedral, lead levels were twice the amount compared to that outside the plume’s path. According to the study, which was recently published in the journal GeoHealth, people within one kilometer downwind are likely to have greater exposure for a brief time to toxic lead fallout than what has been suggested by the French authorities.

Researchers further explained that a kilogram of non-contaminated soil may contain less than 100 milligrams of lead. In the case of the samples they collected within a one-kilometer radius, the lead content averaged 200 milligrams per kilogram of soil.

For samples collected northwest of the structure, lead content averaged almost 430 milligrams per kilogram, which is twice that of the surrounding area and beyond the country’s 300 mg/kg limit, according to US News and World Report. Yuling Yao of the statistics department at Columbia University in New York, who is the co-author of the study, revealed their final estimates on the total amount of leftover lead is much greater compared to what was reported previously by other research teams.

In a university news release, Yao said his team and other research teams measured slightly different things. “But ultimately all disagreement in scientific findings shall be validated by more data, especially when they have a profound policy and public health consequences. I hope our work sheds some light in that direction,” he said.

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