Stage lights emitting ultraviolet (UVA) rays were “likely the cause” of burning eye pain and vision problems suffered by some 20 attendees at a festival last Saturday, the organisers have said.

Yuga Labs, the parent company of the NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), said on Thursday that it had investigated social media reports of eye pain, vision issues, or skin irritation from some attendees of the ApeFest last weekend.

ApeFest 2023, a NFT festival organised by Yuga Labs, the parent company of NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club. Photo: Bored Ape Yacht Club via X.
ApeFest 2023, a NFT festival organised by Yuga Labs, the parent company of NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club. Photo: Bored Ape Yacht Club via X.

“UVA-emitting lights installed in one corner of the event was likely the cause of the reported issues related to attendees’ eyes and skin,” Yuga Labs wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The organisers said the investigation included a review of inventory records and spec sheets, interviews with contractors responsible for installations, and on-site inspections. The work was carried out in collaboration with Jack Morton Worldwide, an international marketing agency which also produced the event, they added.

They said attendees who experienced symptoms should continue to seek medical attention, as well as contact them directly.

“We are saddened that this incident has detracted from the experience of ApeFest attendees,” the organisers said. They added that they are committed to supporting the recovery of those affected, but did not specify whether there would be compensation.

UV-induced eye pain

The three-day event, held at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and attended by around 2,000 BAYC crypto fans, was followed by reports of severe eye burns and vision problems posted by attendees on X.

One attendee, Adrian Zduńczyk, said he was diagnosed with photokeratitis in both eyes, which could cause severe eye pain, following unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Yuga Labs said on Monday they were aware of the eyes-related issues that affected some attendees. “Based on our estimates, we believe that much less than 1% of those attending and working the event had these symptoms,” they said in an earlier statement.

Louise Conroy, a spokesperson for Yuga Labs, told the New York Times on Tuesday that the company was in contact with 22 people who had eye problems after the event.

In 2017, HKFP reported a similar incident at a Hypebeast event, in which some partygoers were left with skin burns and sensitivity to light after being exposed to ultraviolet rays.

Currently, Hong Kong has no legislation regulating the use of concert lighting which emits ultraviolet radiation.

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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in local politics, academia, and media transformation. He was previously a social science researcher, with writing published in the Social Movement Studies and Social Transformation of Chinese Societies journals. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Before joining HKFP, He also worked as a freelance reporter for Initium between 2019 and 2021, where he covered the height - and aftermath - of the 2019 protests, as well as the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.