Attendees at Hong Kong’s ApeFest NFT Event Suffer ‘Extreme’ Eye-Related Problems

Yuga Labs, the company behind the event, claims only one percent of attendees were affected.

Visitors take a photo of a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT at the Digital Art Fair Xperience 2022 in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Attendees of ApeFest 2023, a gathering for collectors of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, left the annual event with eye-related symptoms ranging from pain and burning to blurred vision that may be related to improper use of ultraviolet lighting.

This year’s ApeFest ran from November 3–5 across locations in Hong Kong. Following an event on Saturday night, several attendees began posting on X (formerly Twitter) about problems affecting their eyes. There were accounts of “extreme pain” and not being able to “see normally,” with some users having to seek emergency medical attention.  

One user, @crypto_birb, who “woke up with severe eye burn,” reported being diagnosed with photokeratitis, an eye condition caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays, essentially a sunburn of the cornea. “Please go get your eyes checked immediately,” they wrote. “We’ve most likely been exposed to experience similar to Mt Everest climbers—snow blindness.”

Yuga Labs, the company behind ApeFest and the BAYC NFT collection, has issued a statement saying it is “proactively reaching out to individuals…to try and find the potential root causes” of the issue. Most affected attendees have indicated an improvement, the company said, but it urged anyone with symptoms to get medical help. 

The company said “less than one percent of those attending and working the event had these symptoms,” per its calculations. Yuga’s spokesperson Emily Kitts said the company has been in direct contact with 15 people, in a statement to The Verge.

Yuga’s response has not gone down well with ApeFest attendees. On X, they have accused the company of “downplaying” the issue and “mistreatment“; some noted the medical bills they had accrued from attending the festival. 

“My ape is not only the most expensive thing I own, it is one of the only things I own,” wrote @ahitposter. “I had my parents give me a loan so I could attend ApeFest, and now I am drowning in eye related medical bills I don’t know how to pay.” 

In a statement to MarketWatch, Yuga Labs declined to speculate on the cause of the symptoms until its investigation is complete. But that’s not stopped its community from drawing theories, including from a 2017 report that guests at an event hosted by Hypebeast in Hong Kong experienced “painful burns and eye injuries.” The similar symptoms were allegedly caused by UV lights, which had been mistakenly used in place of black lights and were installed by a third-party contractor.  

The third edition of ApeFest was the first held outside New York, representing Yuga Labs’s new bet on Asia, and reportedly drew some 2,500 attendees. They partook in scavenger hunts, nightly parties, hangover brunches, and photo walks in a city-wide event that promised “meetups and mayhem.”  


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