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Children, pregnant women living near Notre Dame urged to be tested for lead contamination

 Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France on May 10, 2019.
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France on May 10, 2019. -
REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
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Pregnant women and young children living near the devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris are being urged by health authorities to have their blood tested for lead contamination after one child was found to have higher-than-normal levels of the substance.

The regional health authority (ARS) issued a warning on Tuesday and urged families living on the Ile de la Cité, where the 850-year-old cathedral is located, to get tested "as a precaution".

The gothic landmark was disfigured by a blaze on April 15, which started under the roof and resulted in the collapse of the monument's spire.

ARS said last month that the fire had "exposed the surrounding areas to lead combustion residues due to the presence of the metal in the roof of the cathedral" but that there were "no risks associated with the absorption of lead when inhaling outside air".

It highlighted that all the values for lead recorded on the Ile of la Cité were below the regulatory threshold of 0.25 microgrammes per cubic metre of air but flagged much higher readings near the cathedral including the square in front, the streets immediately around it and the upper floors of administrative buildings overlooking it.

Remediation of these areas is scheduled to start in the next few days and residents are also advised to visit their doctors to get a blood test and to thoroughly clean their apartments.

ARS also announced that it has launched an environmental inquiry to identify the causes behind the child's high levels of lead.

Lead contamination can lead to lead poisoning, which primarily affects children under the age of 6, pregnant women and their unborn children.

It can trigger abdominal pain, constipation and headaches as well as increased irritability and reduced concentration.

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