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No extra lead in Paris air after Notre-Dame fire

Air-monitoring laboratory finds no change in levels of several metals in the Paris air

by Laura Howes
May 9, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 19


A plume of smoke rising from the Notre-Dame cathedral fire.
Credit: Abaca Press/Yaghobzadeh Rafael/Abaca/Sipa US/Newscom
The smoke plume from the Notre-Dame cathedral fire was quickly dispersed by local conditions and does not seem to have affected the air quality in Paris.

Airparif, which monitors air quality in Paris, has released more data after the blaze at the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral last month. The readings were taken in the city’s 18th arrondissement, which was not directly under the fire’s smoke plume, and showed no elevated levels of the metals lead, cadmium, arsenic, or nickel in the air. Earlier analysis had already shown that the fire did not cause air pollution in the city to exceed normal levels.

After the fire on April 15, an environmental advocacy group raised concerns about the levels of lead released from the cathedral’s spire and roof. Tests later revealed that particulates containing the neurotoxic element had fallen in the local area around the cathedral, but data were not immediately available for the air levels in the city.

Lead levels were historically monitored in Paris because of the use of lead in vehicle fuels. Since the additive has been banned, lead levels have dropped significantly, and Airparif now maintains only three sites to measure lead levels in the air. Normally, these values are published as an annual average, but after the Notre-Dame fire, Airparif scientists did a more detailed analysis.


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