Blue VinylPart family comedy and part horrifying investigative reportage, Blue Vinyl can make one simultaneously laugh and shiver with fear in the same, deceptively low-key moments. Documentary filmmaker Judith Helfand, upset that her parents are re-siding their house with blue vinyl, sets out (with co-director Daniel B. Gold) to discover how vinyl is made and why, according to some scientists, it is the most hazardous of synthetic materials.

Along the way, she meets industry representatives who tell her the key chemical ingredient in vinyl, chloride, is no more toxic than table salt. She also travels to Venice, Italy, to meet with families of vinyl factory workers dead or dying from chemical exposure, and she visits an intrepid, Louisiana attorney who has sued American vinyl manufacturers on behalf of severely injured former employees.

The tale is grim, yet the often on-screen Helfand's approach is folksy and calm--less so when her skeptical parents reject, in several funny scenes, even empirical data about a product they find so...

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