Chicago airport-area residents raise stink over foul-smelling windows
Residents in neighborhoods around Chicago's airports who are concerned about foul odors coming from noise replacement windows are invited to a meeting on Monday for what one area group's spokeswoman says is an attempt to figure out how serious the problem might be.
"I have a bad feeling about all of this," Pam Zidarich, a South Latrobe Avenue resident and member of the nonprofit Midway Defective Window Recipients (MDWR), told North Cook News. "I worry that this is going to be Chicago's Flint, Michigan; that's my biggest concern right now."
Zidarich was referring to the ongoing drinking water controversy in Flint, Michigan, where state and federal officials have for years been dealing with lead contamination.
Zidarich and other MDWR members are handing out fliers and inviting area residents who received windows and doors in Chicago's residential sound insulation program to a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at West Lawn Park, 4233 West 65th St. Set up as a "meet and greet" and "the beginning of our efforts to raise funds for our own experts," the meeting is being co-sponsored by 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn, according to the flier.
"This is a very complicated and serious issue, and we are organizing to provide education and guidance to those who are affected as we move on to find a solution to the problem together," the flier says.
While the Midway group is for residents of Midway Airport-area neighborhoods, Zidarich said other groups have formed in other neighborhoods, including those around O'Hare, and that members are trying to coordinate their efforts. The groups hope to share and provide information and raise funds to hire independent experts to conduct tests in area homes, Zidarich said.
Groups are still in their information-gathering phase, but Kidarich said she has heard estimates that 20,000 homes around O'Hare and Midway airports might be affected.
"God only knows how many of these windows are out there," she said.
O'Hare and Midway area residents have been complaining that the polyvinyl chloride windows, installed in their homes as part of a noise reduction program in the neighborhoods near the city's two airports, are periodically "off-gassing" a smell described as being like burning plastic or an electrical fire.
It's especially bad when the windows are heated by the sun, particularly on hot summer days, Zidarich and other residents say.
"When the sun is beaming on them or when there's a strong sun on a hot summer day, that's when it gets really bad," Zidarich said. "That when the windows start off-gassing."
Off-gassing is most often associated with the so-called "new car smell," but Zidarich said the odors produced by her windows are something different, overpowering and don't dissipate over time.
"Something is happening to the windows to make them break down," she said.
The replacement windows were installed in the Zidarich home in 2011, but area residents say the window replacements began several years earlier. Most, like Zidarich, didn't notice the odor right away, but once it set in, the smell was hard to miss.
"It's in my home and smells so toxic, it takes my breath away," Zidarich said, adding that the odor is at its worst in her son's room.
Earlier this year the city announced it wanted to replace windows in more airport area homes. Zidarich warned that the program needs to be stopped since it hasn't been determined whether there's danger involved in the odor.
"They need to stop installing these windows until they know what's going on," Zidarich said.