For years, it was believed that anti-bacterial soaps were more effective at sustaining long-term health. Stripping and destroying harmful bacteria seems like a no-brainer when taken at face value. Triclosan, one of the most widely used anti-bacterial, anti-microbial agents in the United States, was introduced in 1972 to hospitals to help sterilize environments for surgeries. During the anti-bacterial age that followed, it found its way into a multitude of products, including antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, toys, and other household and personal care products.
For years, this chemical was broadly used without question. Only in recent years have alarms been rung and flags been raised. A study released in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, entitled "Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky?" in 2007, concluded that antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps. In 2010, the FDA stated that, “Existing data raise valid concerns about the [health] effects of repetitive daily human exposure to [triclosan].”
So what took so long for people to realize the consequences? Truthfully, there is very little oversight when it comes to mass marketed chemicals. Humans are the test subjects for many substances, as they are pronounced safe until proved dangerous. Only when consumer watch groups began to push for studies on triclosan did something actually get done.
Since the dangers have been released, many companies have quietly been removing triclosan from their products. The governor of Minnesota went as far as to ban all products containing triclosan from being sold in the state, effective 2017.
The FDA still technically states that "Triclosan is not known to be hazardous to humans," but more studies are being pushed for as public awareness builds.
You can find a list of products that either have contained or do contain triclosan here. It is not a complete list, and some of the products may have removed the chemical, but it is a general reference to start with.
Check your labels. If you see "anti-bacterial" on the label, there is a good chance the product contains triclosan.
Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purell#mediaviewer/File:Purell_8_fl_oz_bottle.jpg