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More Than 20 Report Burning Eyes After NFT Festival in Hong Kong


More than 20 people have reported burning eye pain and vision problems after attending a party for NFT owners in Hong Kong last weekend, the organizers said on Tuesday.

The gathering was part of ApeFest, a three-day event hosted by Bored Ape Yacht Club, a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts who own unique digital images of primates that cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece.

Yuga Labs, the parent company of Bored Ape Yacht Club, is in contact with 22 people who had eye problems after the event, said Louise Conroy, a spokeswoman for the company.

“We are very distressed by these reports,” Ms. Conroy said in an interview, adding that Yuga Labs was working with an independent firm to investigate the claims. “Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, we intend to do the right thing by our community members.”

Although the exact cause of the symptoms had not yet been determined, she said, there were some potential culprits: “At this point, we’re looking into fluorescent paint in one of our setup areas, and most definitely looking at UV light.”

An estimated 2,500 crypto enthusiasts gathered at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on Saturday night for a night of drinks, music and mingling that ended just after 11 p.m.

Adrian Zdunczyk, 30, a cryptocurrency trader who lives in Portugal, said that a sharp, fiery sensation in his eyes awoke him around 4:30 the next morning and that the feeling would not go away no matter how many times he rinsed his eyes with water. “It felt like microwaving your eyes,” he said on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, he saw social media posts from others reporting nearly identical symptoms: intense eye pain, vision problems and irritated skin similar to sunburn. Chloe Ge, another attendee, told The Financial Times that at 3 a.m. on Sunday she felt like her eyes were “being burnt with spicy chili.”

Dr. Will Flanary, an ophthalmologist in Portland, Ore., said that the symptoms being described on social media pointed to “a classic case” of photokeratitis, or damage to the cornea caused by ultraviolet light.

The condition is similar to “snow blindness,” the eye damage experienced by skiers exposed to UV light reflected off snow, he said. The condition is serious, but usually heals within 24 to 72 hours.

“It’s excruciating pain,” he said. “It’s 10-out-of-10 pain. But no, they won’t go blind from this.”

It is not clear where attendees may have been exposed to ultraviolet light. Images and videos from the event show a stage with a D.J. booth where neon purple lights were directed at the crowd. In another room, tubular lights mounted on the ceiling shone onto several decorative toilets where attendees paused to take photos.


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