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Can you purchase exterior low-VOC paint?

Green Living Image Gallery Green is more than just a color -- using low-VOC paints for your home's exterior is an eco- and health-conscious choice. See more green living pictures.

The air inside your home can be as much as three times more polluted than the air outside, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), those toxins are among the top five health hazards we face each day [source: Eartheasy]. Most of the materials used to build even brand-new homes could still be giving off toxins years after installation.

Among the worst culprits are paints, varnishes and finishes, which contain a specific variety of toxin called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which for a long time were believed essential to the performance of the paints themselves. But because of new environmental regulations and an expanding awareness of these chemicals, the house paint industry has provided us with a set of alternatives.

Low-VOC, zero-VOC and natural paints have been a buzzed-about innovation in home improvement and green building for about a decade. The more we learn, the more changes have been demanded, and now most manufacturers are creating lines to meet the demand.

The greatly reduced poison content of paint means less chemical sensitivity and fewer allergy attacks for those who are prone, as well as reduced contaminants in landfills, the atmosphere and our groundwater. These paints are water-based, so they're easier to clean up than solvent-based paints, but they're still durable and cost-effective. They give off fewer (sometimes zero) hazardous fumes. That means that it's safer and more pleasant to paint a room, and you can move back into it faster than with conventional paints.

Whether you're building a home or repainting a recent purchase, you've probably heard a great deal about these strides in environmentally and health-conscious building materials. Which may lead you to wonder: Are there low- or no-VOC exterior paint and finish alternatives that work just as well as conventional options?