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2 Investigators: Warranty May Have Expired On Toxic-Smelling Windows

(CBS) -- Some homeowners who received soundproof windows that are now degrading and emitting a noxious smell may be out of luck.

Older windows no longer covered by a 10-year warranty from the installer, Sound Solutions, might not be replaced.

2 Investigator Pam Zekman has been following this story from the beginning and reports that homeowners are upset at this latest development they are learning about in phone calls from city aviation department employees.

"She told me the warranty was up and that the windows were now my responsibility," Donna Eilers recalls. "It's my problem. The windows are over 10 years old. Now, it's my problem."

Like so many others, she first detected the noxious odor years ago.

"All of a sudden I start smelling like there's a fire in my house," she says.

She walked through her house feeling the walls to see if there were any hot spots caused by burning electrical wires. But found nothing.

Then she saw the CBS2 investigative reports detailing the ongoing controversy involving the city's sound insulation program for homeowners living around O'Hare and Midway airports.

"And I said, 'That's the smell we have. That's what's going on. It's the windows.'"

The window frames are made from polyvinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. The spacers that hold the two pieces of glass together are made of polyisobutylene, which can degrade gradually under intense sunlight. The manufacturers of both products used by the window provider have denied the smell could be coming from their products or that there is a health hazard.

But the city has now hired an outside consultant to establish protocols for testing the windows and the air inside some of the homes.

At a joint hearing of the city council Finance and Aviation committees last week, Aaron Frame, the deputy aviation commissioner in charge of the sound insulation program said the city is working with affected home owners.

"We are offering to replace windows in each home where an odor is confirmed by our staff," he said. "To date, we have extended agreements to 20 home owners with more coming as we continue to visit homes and confirm any issues."

Janet Hopper was at the haring and had been relieved to the official's remarks.

But now the Hopper family says they've been told by a city aviation employee the fix for their  home is "on hold" because the windows were also installed more than 10 years ago and the warranty offered by the now-closed Sound Solutions is up.

"I can't believe it. I am shocked," Hopper says.

Her son, Michael Hopper, lives a few homes away is in the same predicament. As for the outdated warranty issue cited by the city, he argues: "It has nothing to do with it. The warranty was still good when they found out there was problems."

A city aviation spokesperson says the department will inspect all homes to confirm what whether they have an odor from the windows and get a handle on the scope of the problem. But for now, they will only replace those where the original 10-year warranty is still in effect.

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