An Avoidable Tragedy: Why We Need Stronger Protections Against Toxic Substances

Julie Gundlach has undergone six full-day surgeries and numerous chemotherapy treatments all because she had secondhand exposure to the deadly mineral asbestos as a child.

This is a transcript of the video.

Julie Gundlach, St. Louis: My doctors told me quite frankly that I should put my affairs in order, and they used the phrase "We'll throw some chemo at it, but we don't expect it to work."

My name is Julie Gundlach. In 2006, I was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma caused by secondhand exposure to asbestos. My surgeries generally lasts between 8 and 12 hours, during which they split me from breastbone to pelvis, remove as much tumor as they can, infuse me with a heated chemotherapy wash for two hours, before they close me back up with 64 staples, and then allow me to recuperate in the hospital for 10 days. I've done that six times.

After researching how I could have possibly been exposed to asbestos, it became clear that it was all around me. My father worked as a commercial electrician, so as a union man in the trades, he most likely brought it home on his clothes. My father would come home from work, and I'd run up and hug him. He was covered in dust from a worksite. We didn't know that, that included asbestos dust. When my mother washed his clothes in the laundry room that doubled as my playroom and shook out the dust, she had no idea she was spreading asbestos fibers throughout our house.

The industry not having to label things, they had no idea there was asbestos in our house, in all these products, and they had no idea that one of those fibers could cause cancer in someone.

I think what motivates me to speak out is that I want people to know, I want people to know that asbestos isn't banned, I want people to know that there's still a risk out there associated with this, and it's not being mitigated on a daily basis. We're still importing asbestos today, it's still in use. As long as we still use it, we're still creating threat.

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