By Tim Hadac
Southwest Chicago Post
A prominent, university-based scientist supports Southwest
Side homeowners’ contention that government-supplied windows may be poisoning them, a leader of the Midway Defective Window Recipients group said this week.
“We will reveal details, as well as provide an update on the current situation and talk about our next steps” at a public meeting set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26 at West Lawn Park, 4233 W. 65th St., according to MDWR co-founder Pam Zidarich, a Chrysler Village homeowner.
All are invited to the meeting, especially local homeowners who have received windows and doors through the Chicago Department of Aviation’s Residential Sound Insulation Program.
After a story reported exclusively by the Southwest News-Herald last June, hundreds of Southwest Siders who received RSIP windows and doors in recent years have come forward to report foul odors emitted by their windows and doors.
Some homeowners fear that the odors are more than annoying—that they may contain chemicals harmful to human health. Some of those same homeowners have reported cancer diagnoses and respiratory ailments in children.
One is Bozena Sus, who with her family has owned a two flat near 60th and Kilpatrick since 1983.
“When we moved here, things were very quiet,” she said in a conversation at her home last Monday. “But then the airport came back to life, it expanded, the Orange Line was built, and suddenly we had a lot of noise.”
In 2008, Sus learned that her home qualified for RSIP windows. She applied and was accepted. All windows in her home were replaced that year with sound-blocking windows.
“But right from the start, we had problems,” she said. “The smell was there, and it never went away. Plus there were other problems,” like faulty window seals that let in air, sound and rain. The leaky windows led to mechanical problems, rusting metal parts and making the windows difficult if not impossible to open and close.
|Bozena Sus and Pam Zidarich examine defective RSIP windows.|
“We did not know what was causing it,” Sus recalled. “We took him to doctors, had tests performed—nothing. We removed the carpets from our home—nothing. Then a few years later, when he moved out to his own place, his asthma stopped—just like that.”
Another family member living in the building was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she added.
Like a number of Southwest Side homeowners, Sus expressed frustration with what she says is a prolonged, poor response of Department of Aviation officials.
“I’ve called again and again—and the few times they have come out, they always tell me not to worry,” she said. “They say the smell is harmless. And then another time, they say there is no smell at all.
“What frustrates me is being ignored,” Sus continued. “I don’t know if they hear a woman with an accent and figure they can get away with ignoring me, or what.”
She said that a CDA subcontractor came out late last fall and offered to remove some of the windows from her home, but she declined—saying her family would not go through a Chicago winter with missing windows.
She said that CDA is scheduled to come back to her home in early May.
“In addition to frustrating, this is all very stressful,” Sus said. “Every day that the Department of Aviation does nothing, my family has to live in our home and go through the uncertainty of not knowing what we are breathing—if it is making us sick or even killing us. We are working people, taxpayers. We don’t deserve this.”
Earlier this year, CDA officials said that tests they conducted in nine homes near Midway Airport do not show a health hazard linked to the defective windows.
Many local homeowners criticized the tests as flawed. CDA officials say they will continue to test this spring and summer.