Sound reduction windows installed by the city in homes around O’Hare and Midway airports may stink to high heaven, but they’re not impacting public health, an initial round of environmental testing has concluded.
The testing program was conducted for the city from September through December by Amec Foster Wheeler Environmental Infrastructure.
After testing more than 200,000 compounds in the air in nine homes where vinyl windows were installed to minimize jet noise, the firm found “no evidence” that the windows had “any significant impact on indoor air quality or related health concerns.”
Formaldehyde was detected in one of the nine homes, but the report concluded that is “most likely from sources in the home other than the windows.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers formaldehyde a common compound prevalent in everyday life, including many household items such as wood flooring, curtains and drapes, and gas stoves, among many others.
In spite of those initial results, Amec Foster Wheeler recommended additional testing to identify the cause of odors emitted and develop further information on what it calls “off-gassing.”
“We will continue to pursue this issue through a second round of testing,” senior environmental engineer Chris Everts was quoted as saying in a press release.
Southwest Side Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), who has been on the warpath about the stinky windows, says the jury is still out.
“We have to do more testing. That’s specifically why we passed the ordinance which calls for 10 percent of confirmed cases to be in-home tested,” Quinn said.
Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd), chairman of the City Council’s Aviation Committee, agreed in a text message.
“Small sample. Early indications are good. [But] we need more homes tested in warm weather,” Zalewski wrote.
“Under no circumstances can anyone conclude this is a victory.”
Embattled Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said she’s pleased with the initial round of testing, but added “we are not done yet.”
“We agree with the recommendation of the experts that more refined testing is needed to bring forward the answers that the community deserves,” she said.
Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita said she has reviewed the testing methodology as well as the findings.
Testing was performed before and after windows were replaced in the nine homes to measure air quality. Results were then compared to state guidelines and to California’s more “conservative” indoor air quality guidelines.
“Based on our close review of this matter, we agree that it’s highly unlikely that the … windows are detracting from the health/quality of air in the homes,” Morita said.
Last month, a City Council committee approved a pair of ordinances to protect impacted homeowners. One would require the city to replace the stinky windows, even if the warranties have expired. The second ordinance would require the city to inspect at least 10 percent of the homes where residents have complained about the foul smell.