This article explores the role of ethnography and political ecology theory amid an emerging environmental public health debate: vapor intrusion. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines vapor intrusion as the migration of volatile organic compounds from a contaminated groundwater source into overlying buildings. Like many other environmental health risks, vapor intrusion debates invoke particular socioenvironmental politics and expose complex and variegated negotiations with science, expertise, and policy. First, I expose the perceptions and experiences of scientists and regulators engaged in contemporary vapor intrusion (VI) debates. Next, I draw on ethnographic data from a community case study of residents' struggles and understandings of vapor intrusion and public health risk at an industrial hazardous waste site in Endicott, New York. This is followed by a discussion of the value of the political ecology of health perspective and its potential for informing yet another emerging environmental health problem.

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