Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When Vinyl Windows Go Bad

No, that condensation on our window is not on the outer pane of glass. It's between the two panes. This happens in vinyl windows when the moisture seal fails, and though it's touted as a repairable problem, I'm trying to use it as a way to convince my husband to start replacing our windows with *ahem* salvaged wood windows. I have no idea how old these vinyl windows are, and the one in the picture already had this problem when we moved in. Why am I harping about it now? Because it's officially autumn when the thought of heat bills to come give me goosebumps, I'm pregnant and nesting, and so the house must be completely redone from top to bottom! NOW.

I hated our windows when we bought this place. My husband loves them. Nearly every window in the house has frosted glass on the bottom pane. I'm assuming this is for privacy, since we can nearly touch our neighbors if we stick our hands out the window, but it blocks light in an already dark old house and, well, it just looks tacky to me.

Shall I go into the possible dangers to our health that are posed by vinyl windows? PVC contains pthalates, lead, cadmium, light stabilizers, heat stabilizers, anti-oxidants, barium, and other chemical compounds.

High levels of lead are also found in PVC. Studies have shown that vinyl windows can deteriorate from the effects of the heat and sun. This deterioration releases lead dust at dangerous levels. Vinyl window shades containing lead have been banned in the U.S.

But vinyl windows are sitting in nearly every wall of my house. And we were worried about lead paint when we moved in. Hmmm...

I tried for several years to put our windows out of my mind because there's nothing I hate more than sending something that is working to a landfill. I'm not sure what the "right" answer is. Do I get the window repaired, knowing that the rest are soon to come but avoiding the addition to the landfill, or do I hope that someone will be able to reuse these and start finding salvaged wooden windows, which may have lead paint covering them that I have to either have removed by a professional (pregnant women DO NOT do lead paint removal. Period.) or otherwise encapsulated.

If you're in the mood for a funny but informative video about the dangers of PVC, check out Sam Suds and the Case of PVC, the Poison Plastic.

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