Your perfume is giving you diabetes

Most people don't need any help getting diabetes -- it's a condition you can get easily enough on your own.

But you could be getting a big boost anyway, and not from your diet alone.

Phthalates are chemicals found all over the home. But since they're especially common in cosmetics and perfumes, women get some of the highest levels of exposure -- and they face some of the highest risks as a result.

Now, a new study of 2,350 women finds that those with the highest levels of two common phthalates -- mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate -- have almost double the risk of diabetes when compared to women with the lowest levels.

But you don't need high levels of exposure to face high risks.

Women who simply have above-average levels of another phthalate, called mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate, have a 60 percent higher risk of diabetes than those with lower levels.

And women with moderately high levels of mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate have a 70 percent increase in risk, according to the data in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Don't waste your time trying to remember all those chemical names. Just remember that phthalates as a class are known endocrine disrupters linked to a long and growing list of serious health problems. So far, studies have linked them to cancer, weight gain, thyroid problems, and more.

And since they mimic estrogen inside the body, they can feminize men, cause breast growth in boys, and early puberty in girls.

They've also been linked to asthma, and another new study makes the connection again in children, finding that kids with the highest levels of these chemicals have higher levels of inflammation in the airways.

Clearly, it's important to keep these chemicals away from everyone in your family -- especially the youngest members of your household.

But it's getting harder than ever to accomplish that.

Like I said earlier, they're all over your home -- in your cosmetics, shampoo, and even your flooring. Until recently, they were in children's toys. And one recent study even found high levels of them in new backpacks and lunchboxes featuring popular children's characters.

Cutting your exposure is going to take some doing -- but I'd say it's worth the effort.

One easy place for women to start: Replace chemical perfumes with essential oils.