How Much Environmental Damage Will Notre Dame’s Lead Roof Cause?

Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via ZUMA

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We get questions:

That’s a lot of lead. And I am not an expert in how lead circulates in the atmosphere. However, for two reasons I suspect this isn’t too big a concern:

  • Most of the lead melted and fell into the cathedral. I can’t put a number to this, but I imagine that only a tiny fraction was carried away into the atmosphere. Pure lead is quite heavy.¹
  • It’s a one-time occurrence. Lead mostly poses a danger when children are exposed to it for long periods of time. In this case, however, they’ll probably be exposed for only a few days before it all settles or drifts away.

I too would like to hear from an expert about this, but in the meantime my best guess is that the release of lead into the atmosphere is a fairly minor issue.

Note that I’m talking here about the effect on the area surrounding the cathedral. Needless to say, lead contamination inside the cathedral is likely to be a big problem for the cleanup crew.

¹As opposed to the lead in gasoline, which comes in the form of tetraethyl lead. This molecule contains 20 hydrogen atoms, 8 carbon atoms, and one lead atom, which makes it relatively light. It’s still heavier than air, but not so much that it can’t drift quite a distance on wind currents.

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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