At least 15 attendees of ApeFest 2023 — a conference celebrating Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, held this past weekend (November 3–5) in Hong Kong — have reported experiencing eye and skin pain following the event. The complaints began to role in on X on Sunday, November 5, with festivalgoers citing symptoms consistent with unprotected exposure to UV light. Two attendees reported waking up in the middle of the night with extreme pain that landed them in the hospital.
I woke up at 04:00 and couldn’t see anymore. Had so much pain and my whole skin is burned. Needed to go to the hospital.
The doctor told me the uv of the lightning of the stage did it. It has the same effect as sunlight.
Still can not see normally..
— Crypto June 💎🎯 (@CryptoJune777) November 5, 2023
English-language Hong Kong paper The Standard posted an article on the reports at 4:15 p.m. local time on Monday (3:15 a.m. EST). A spokesperson for Yuga Labs, the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s creators, told the publication that the company was “aware of this situation and.. taking it seriously,” adding that they were “actively reaching out to those affected to better understand the root cause.”
Soon after the article’s publication, the official Bored Ape Yacht Club X account posted a statement on the issue. “Apes, we are aware of the eye-related issues that affected some of the attendees of ApeFest and have been proactively reaching out to individuals since yesterday to try and find the potential root causes,” the post reads. “Based on our estimates, we believe that much less than 1% of those attending and working the event had these symptoms.”
U.S. tech publications picked up the news later in the day on Monday. Speaking to The Verge, Yuga Labs’ Director of Public Relations, Emily Kitts, claimed that the number of ApeFest attendees experiencing symptoms was statistically small. “Based on our estimates, the 15 people we’ve been in direct communication with so far represent less than one percent of the approximately 2,250 event attendees and staff at our Saturday night event,” she said. The FADER has reached out to Yuga Labs for further comment.
The Verge’s article goes on to note that attendees of a Hong Kong Hypebeast event in 2017 experienced similar symptoms — sunburn, intense eye pain, loss of vision — due to unprotected UV light exposure, citing the Hong Kong Free Press. One X user posted footage from ApeFest 2023, claiming onstage projections there had used UVC light, which has been tested for its disinfectant properties.
This is the ApeFest stage where UVC lighting damaged some people’s eyes pic.twitter.com/kO9TKZ6Xh0
— borovik.eth (@3orovik) November 6, 2023
Not all ApeFest attendees were dissatisfied, even among those experiencing troubling symptoms, as 404 Media later reported. “Thanks for great apefest logistiscs guys @yugalabs & @BoredApeYC. Incredible event and met plenty of amazing people,” Polish crypto entrepreneur Adrian Zduńczyk wrote to his 650,000 followers on X. “Still, as dozens of others, I’ve almost lost sight this night.”