The EPA released for comment on Nov. 9 its proposed Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Updates. The draft protocols are voluntary and intended for use by the home retrofit industry with respect to single-family and multi-family low-rise dwellings. The protocols are addressed to the concern that initiatives to weatherize or "green" existing homes may have the unintended effect of negatively impacting indoor air quality.

The protocols are organized into three categories:

  • Assessment protocols – for use to assess existing conditions and the potential for increased health risks as a result of retrofitting
  • Minimum actions – should be taken to ensure that retrofit activities do not introduce new health concerns or worsen existing conditions
  • Expanded actions – may be implemented at little or no cost in connection with a home retrofit to improve the indoor environment

Of particular relevance for companies in the real estate industry or involved in real estate transactions are the protocols for radon testing and mitigation. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Radioactive and highly carcinogenic, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. As asbestos and lead paint concerns fade over time with the development of newer housing stock, radon may become an even bigger issue, due to modern building codes that call for tight construction and thus increase radon buildup. Radon exposure is a significant issue for dwellings in Bernalillo County, which is the most populous county in New Mexico, and large parts of Arizona as well.

You can read EPA’s remarks on the draft protocols here. Comments on the protocols are due by Dec. 9, 2010.