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Picking Strawberries in Lincolnwood
by Nan Hendricks, Bridge Alliance
I came to live in my husband's Lincolnwood house when we married in 1955. It was a fine neighborhood with a small park in back, a utility corridor and one train track, the Northwestern commuter to Skokie. In those days our neighbors took the train downtown to the Loop every day.
We all noticed when the railroad sprayed the new weedkiller along the tracks. Rabbits and pheasants disappeared. Scrub brush died. Nothing grew along the tracks except strawberries. Beautiful strawberries.
I was home now awaiting the birth of my first child. I went to pick the strawberries and made jam from them.
The second year I picked strawberries I took a small neighbor with me. In the evening the child's mother came to say that the father was very upset that we had picked and eaten the strawberries. He was a food additive researcher for Kraft Cheese Company. He said the weedkiller was in the strawberries. I should throw them away and never even walk along the track. Thirty eight years ago I could hardly relate to such information. I came very slowly to believe.
I kept bleeding throughout the first and second pregnancies. And after my second son was born I did not stop bleeding for three years despite repeated hospital stays with drug therapy. I spent much of the second pregnancy in bed trying to get to term. I had a serious kidney infection. In 1965 our third child was born after a similar pregnancy.
We only learned gradually of the hyperactivity and learning disability of our first son and the inguinal hernia and learning disability of the second. With the third child, a daughter, I became aware that something was very wrong while still in the delivery room area. She required immediate surgery for inperforate anus.
To be two years old and weigh 14 pounds and not walk. That is wasting.
Our daughter did not thrive and had two more surgeries before she was a year old. Years later, I came across the term "wasting." To be two years old and weigh 14 pounds and not walk. That is wasting.
Finally, with intense attention in a research project at Michael Reece Hospital, she began thyroid therapy. We had already entered the world of special education with the older children. But here was a child who started special school at three and stayed throughout high school.
I was having my own problems too—excessive menstrual bleeding and intense pain, constant bladder and kidney infections, cysts and tumors in my breasts, hyperactive thyroid, pin in joints and feet, nerve degeneration in my legs and feet. A fourth pregnancy was called a misabortion. It was a mass of living tissue but no fetus formed, the doctor said. Many years later I found the word "molar" pregnancy. Relief came to me with removal of my uterus. The biopsy showed millions of microscopic fibroid tumors, a puzzle to the surgeon.
When the symptoms of Vietnam veterans started to be widely discussed, I began to wonder about my own illnesses. And my oldest son's profound psychosis seemed so much like that of the vets.
The product was made by Dow Chemical Corporation.
My inquiries led to documentation that the railroad had sprayed Agent Orange along the track for seven years. The product was made by Dow Chemical Corporation.
Today my psychotic son is in prison. My daughter is unable to get pregnant. She had difficult painful periods, biopsy after biopsy for cystic breasts. Her pap smear is suspicious. She will always take thyroid. Two other children on the block were born with inperforate anus, one to the child picking strawberries.
Editor's note. This article is from testimony to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at its hearing of December 14, 1994 concerning the reassessment of dioxin.
On February 5, 1980, Leroy Dzierzanowski, Engineer for the Cook County Department of Public Health confirmed that from 1955 to 1967 the area described in this article was sprayed with Weedone 170 and 1054 E, which is a combination of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D.