Near Lens, lead from the former Metaleurop factory continues to poison a city

Lives weighed down by a still polluted environment. New analyzes carried out by journalist Martin Boudot for the France 5 “Vert de rage” program reveal that the inhabitants of Evin-Malmaison (Pas de Calais) are still exposed to alarming levels of lead, almost twenty years after the closure of the nearby plant Metaleurop by Noyelles-Godault. “The problem is not solved, it is permanent”summarizes with franceinfo Jean-Marie Haguenoer, toxicologist and good connoisseur of the old factory.

For this investigation, the “Vert de rage” team analyzed several soil samples, taken from the gardens of three inhabitants of Evin-Malmaison, at the Françoise-Dolto kindergarten, in the Gérard-Houllier stadium, in the former factory and in the surrounding areas. According to French legislation, land of public utility containing more than 300 mg / kg of lead must be evacuated to facilities set up and authorized for this purpose “. A pulverized limit on the site of the old factory – from 6,500 to 232,415 mg / kg registered – but not only: 484.9 mg / kg in kindergarten, up to 623 mg / kg at stadium, between 1096 and 1706 mg / kg in gardens .

These findings were presented to the public at a public meeting on Friday 29 April. Settled in the city since 2010, Clarisse Kaczmarek, 40, didn’t think that “pollution was still so present”. The notary had advised them not to eat the vegetables from their garden when they bought her house, but she and her husband, a native of the country, were not worried. “beyond measure”. In her garden, near the porch and the cabin of her two children aged 8 and 5, the team of the “Vert de rage” detected 1,457 mg / kg of lead, or 4.8 times the alert threshold.

“This worries us a lot. From their first steps, my children walked on polluted ground, even at school.”

Clarisse Kaczmarek

to franceinfo

Although her children are healthy, lead is a particularly dangerous pollutant for toddlers. “Epidemiological studies have shown, without any possible dispute, that it has a negative effect on neurobehavioral development: there is a drop in IQ that can be significant”explains toxicologist Jean-Marie Haguenoer. This is commonly called lead poisoning.

To go further, “Vert de rage” analyzed hair samples from 29 children living in Evin-Malmaison. “The results clearly show that there is a presence of lead in the environment, but we cannot say at this stage if the levels are toxic and if they can cause health problems in the population.”, analyzes the toxicologist Jennie Christense, of the Canadian laboratory that carried out these analyzes. She advises “increased surveillance and further analysis”.

Jean-Marie Haguenoer knows the Metaleurop factory well. As early as the 1970s, he carried out lead detection analyzes for occupational medicine workers. He then conducted a research program with the population, then a scientific committee set up by the prefecture for this pollution. Annual population monitoring campaigns were carried out. But the closure of the factory in 2003, then the departure of the prefect who had started the scientific committee, put an end to this health surveillance in 2005. “I find it abnormal. There is a public health problem, the authorities need to monitor it to see if it progresses or regresses.”tells us today.

A sample of a child's hair in Evin-Malmaison (Pas de Calais).  (FIRST LINE TELEVISIONS)

According to the estimate made by him and the “Vert de rage” team, 5,815 children have been affected by lead poisoning since 1962 in the three towns surrounding the plant (Evin-Malmaison, Noyelles-Godault, Courcelles-lès-Lens). VSlarissa Kaczmarek he hopes that the measures taken by “Vert de rage” will force the authorities to take up the file. “We need to fix things and realize that the pollution is still present, even twenty years after the closure of the plant”, she believes. With the association For the general interest of Evinois (PIGE), you attacked the state before the administrative court. The applicants were rejected, but Clarisse Kaczmarek decided, with others, to appeal.

Contacted by “Vert de rage”, the prefecture did not reply. The Hauts-de-France Regional Health Agency, for its part, replied that no cases of lead poisoning had been reported to its services for ten years in these municipalities and that it had funded several actions, such as “Educational workshops on hand washing” for kindergarten children in the area.

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