Authorities in Bangladesh said today they had sealed off a cosmetics factory in Dhaka for using harmful chemicals including mercury in skin-lightening creams.
A mobile court that disperses instant sentences sentenced the owner of the Botanic Aroma company to two years in prison and ordered the seizure of all of its products.
"They were putting the health of many young people under threat by luring them with claims about the magical skin-lightening power of their products," magistrate Anwar Pasha told AFP.
He said the raid on the factory followed extensive laboratory tests on four types of creams that the company produced.
In Bangladesh, neighbouring India and many other Asian countries, there is a strong cultural preference for fairer skin.
Bangladesh banned the use of mercury in skin care products in 2006.
According to the World Health Organisation, the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin-lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. It may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring.