Bored Ape NFT party is a real eyesore, say irritated attendees

They're ugly but UV lighting blamed for human damage, not the dumb idea

We've heard of getting burned by non-fungible tokens (NFTs), but this is a new one: attendees at a Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) event over the weekend in Hong Kong are reporting eye pain and difficulty seeing after an evening party went wrong. 

ApeFest, which took place over the weekend in multiple venues around Hong Kong, wrapped up on Saturday night with an "immersive BAYC party" at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which offers venue space along with ports for cruise ships. 

The next day, reports from attendees with eye troubles began flooding the website formerly known as Twitter, noting painful eyes, sudden vision loss and even skin burns. One attendee, Polish entrepreneur Adrian Zduńczyk, posted a photo of a receipt from his visit to a Hong Kong eye clinic, where he was diagnosed with photokeratitis in both eyes. 

Photokeratitis is caused by unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and is commonly experienced by welders not wearing protective gear, skiers and others who spend time in bright sunlight. Akin to a sunburn of the eyes, it's not a permanent condition but can increase risks for macular degeneration and cataracts later in life, especially with repeat exposure. 

"My vision was tested as close to perfect with no serious cornea damage, luckily," Zduńczyk said on X. 

BAYC said that it was aware of the situation and was reaching out to ApeFest attendees, but noted that it believed less than one percent of those at the event were affected. So that's all right then. 

"We're also pursuing multiple investigative lines of inquiry to learn the true root cause," BAYC creators Yuga Labs told The Register in an email, adding that it's only spoken to 15 attendees about the issue.

"We are not in a position to confirm the cause or speculate on how we'll avoid it in the future, until the investigation is complete," a Yuga Labs spokesperson said.

Better wear those sunglasses at night

This isn't the first time a venue in Hong Kong has left partygoers burned. In 2017, several attendees at an event thrown by fashion brand Hypebeast experienced similar symptoms, which were later linked to lighting at the event that was emitting short-wavelength UVC radiation. 

UVC radiation comes from the highest energy portion of the UV spectrum, and has long been known for its antimicrobial properties and use in sanitizing surfaces. It was widely deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic after it was shown that it destroyed the virus' outer protein coating and deactivated it, but it has side effects. 

"UVC radiation can cause severe burns of the skin and eye injuries (photokeratitis)," the US Food and Drug Administration noted. 

On its website, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal notes its use of fixed and mobile UVC lighting for sterilization purposes, though it's not immediately clear if such lights are permanently installed in public spaces. 

Aside from being a pain in the eyes, the NFT market has also melted more generally, with trading volume plummeting by 81 percent from January 2022 to July 2023. Once a promised way for artists to reap continued profit on their digital works through royalties baked into Ethereum smart contracts, those supposed sums have largely gone unpaid on secondary markets, undercutting one of the primary use cases for the otherwise useless - and largely hideous - digital ownership receipts. 

When not creating eyesores over the weekend, Yuga Labs announced plans for a new Ethereum marketplace in partnership with NFT platform Magic Eden, which will be "contractually obligated to honor creator royalties," if they have the funds to do so. 

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating several NFT outfits, including Yuga Labs, for selling unregistered securities, and has ruled in two instances that was the case. No charges have been filed against the BAYC creators so far. ®

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