Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Are City Windows a Health Hazard?

Homeowners want sound-insulation windows out, health testing in

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Four homeowners in the Chrysler Village section of Clearing are expressing concern—and even fear and anger—with the Chicago Department of Aviation over windows and doors that help protect them from excessive jet-engine noise; but may, they say, be harming their health.

In a conversation last Sunday, homeowners said the CDA-approved windows and doors—installed in 2011 through the Midway Residential Sound Insulation Program with a 10-year warranty—have started emitting a curious odor.

They acknowledge the situation may be nothing more than an aesthetic problem with a simple remedy of replacement doors and windows—and say that is what they hope the situation is.

“But it’s clear to us that these windows—especially the ones
Pam Zidarich at a window in her home.
that face south and west and get a lot of direct sunlight—are off-gassing something awful,” said Pam Zidarich, who lives in a single-family home near 64th and Latrobe.

Zidarich said the odor—prevalent mostly on hot, sunny days—smells a bit like the beginning of an electrical fire. But her husband, Raymond, an electrician, has confirmed that the home has no electrical problems.

She thinks sunlight may be breaking down the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) she believes is in the window frames. At the very least, Zidarich sees the situation as the release of a harmless but annoying odor. At worst, she sees it as a health hazard that may already have poisoned people in her home and others.

Two people in the four homes have been diagnosed with cancer in the past year.

More than 10,000 homes in 21 years

The Midway Residential Sound Insulation Program’s goal, according to a statement on the Chicago Department of Aviation’s website, is “to make it easier for the highest impacted homeowners surrounding Midway to talk on the phone, watch TV, listen to music, sleep, or have a conversation in their own homes. By properly sound-insulating these homes, homeowners not only gain a quieter interior, but may also benefit from long-lasting improvements and increased efficiency in their heating and cooling systems.”

Since the program was launched in 1996, some 10,173 homes near Midway have been sound-insulated, CDA officials note, as well as 41 local schools.

Victoria Whitney, who has lived near 64th and Latrobe for 44 years, received her new windows and doors in October 2011, as did Zidarich.

“At first, we didn’t seem to have any problems,” she said. “But then this past year or so we noticed it. We asked ourselves, ‘It is our fireplace? Is it an electrical cord?’ Then we talked with Pam and a light bulb went on over our heads.

“Then this year, it really because strong,” she continued. “What the heck are we breathing in here? Where were these windows made?”

Aside from the three people living in her home, she is concerned for the well being of visitors.

“I have a sister who visited from South Carolina,” Whitney added. “She has [chronic] respiratory problems. She walked in my house, and [the odor] almost took her breath away.”

Chrysler Village neighbors share information about their windows.
Donica Bradford has lived down the block in her house for the last 34 years. She said recently, the odor became “so bad, I almost left and got a hotel room.”

Neighbors Jose and Maria Estrada have lived in their home for 19 years and describe the odor as “something like burning plastic.” They are concerned for their own health, as well as that of their three children.

Zidarich said she raised her concerns in March to the Department of Aviation. She said that a Department of Aviation employee and a CDA-hired consultant came out in mid-May and smelled the odor for themselves.

She also noted that the firm that manufactured the windows, Sound Solutions Windows & Doors, went out of business in 2014.

As she works from home every day in an environment where she is concerned about her own health, her patience with city officials is wearing thin.

“I told them I’m tired of them dragging their feet…I’ve been really raising hell the last couple of weeks because yes, they confirmed they smelled it, but they can’t tell us what their game plan is,” Zidarich said.

“I want these windows out of my house,” she continued. “We all do, but not before an independent firm has been brought in here to do their due diligence and measurements of the [gases] that are being let go in my home and that I’m being subjected to. At this point, we don’t know if these gases are causing cancer, reproductive problems or what. We don’t know if the effects will occur now or skip a generation. We hope not, but these are the questions we need answered.”

A request for comment on the situation drew a response Monday afternoon from a Chicago Department of Aviation spokesperson, who wrote in an email, “The CDA is committed to providing quality service and products as part of a sustainable noise reduction solution for all homeowners participating in the Midway Residential Sound Insulation Program. We respond to any calls from homeowners promptly, and we are currently looking into these warranty issues. If homeowners have questions, we encourage them to contact the Midway Residential Insulation Program office.”

According to the CDA website, homeowners with questions about the sound-insulation windows and doors they had installed through the program should call (773) 838-5632.

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