“Recognised as toxic, is lead doomed to remain a legal poison despite everything? »


Echildren from the slums of Aubervilliers, children from nurseries on the Ile de la Cité, same fight? Four years after the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and while we are working there at a forced march to complete the reconstruction site in the wake of the 2024 Olympic celebrations, the opening of a judicial investigation, Wednesday April 12, for “endangering others” is excellent news. The complaint with the filing of civil parties by two neighboring families and several trade union and association actors, including the Henri-Pézerat association, a historical player in the ban on asbestos in France, gives the designated investigating judge the opportunity to assess the possibilities “negligence” and the sequence of responsibilities in the erratic management of lead pollution in the Parisian space since the fire.

Let us remember: on April 15, 2019, more than 400 tons of lead contained in the roof and the spire renovated in the middle of the XIXe century by Viollet-le-Duc flew from the blaze and were deposited by the prevailing winds on sidewalks, bridges, window sills, in schoolyards, public gardens and on shop stalls. While associations and individuals challenged the public authorities on the urgency of considering the cathedral in ashes as a “toxic waste”followed months of denial, underestimation, half-word concessions, partial and uncoordinated actions.

Faced with the legitimate concerns of local residents and the warnings of experts of all kinds, the fragmentation of prerogatives and the absence of political will have confined the health problem. Spokesperson for the skeptics of the State as to the risk of environmental pollution, the prefect of police of Paris was ironic on July 9, 2019 by affirming that it was necessary “lick the sidewalks” to get intoxicated.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Notre-Dame: lead levels 20 times higher than standards detected in an apartment

The long history of lead, however, leaves no doubt. This good old familiar metal, that of the soldiers and the pencils of our parents’ childhood, that of the popular expressions (“to have lead in the head”) which rhyme with wisdom and a sense of responsibility, is a perfectly established poison. and scientifically recognized. For at least two centuries, doctors, toxicologists and epidemiologists have accumulated evidence of its toxicity, without this knowledge ever leading to a total ban on the product. Visiting Parisian typography workshops during the Belle Epoque, Dr. Justin Balland interviewed the workers: Marie H., 36, seventeen miscarriages, only one full-term pregnancy; Mme C., 34 years old, eight pregnancies, three miscarriages, four premature births, only one living child, of weak constitution, etc.

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