Several attendees at an event at the Landmark in Central last week suffered skin problems resembling sunburn, lingering pain in their eyes and a heightened sensitivity to light, in what appears to be a case of ultraviolet light exposure.
The party on Oct. 20 was to launch a pop-up location for work by Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama and was run in collaboration with Hong Kong streetwear publication Hypebeast.
Coconuts Hong Kong spoke with several people this week who went and afterwards experienced either flaking skin, problems with their eyes, or both.
Many attendees connected on social media after initially being baffled by the appearance of the symptoms.
James Acey, who DJ-ed at the event, said he woke up early the next morning with intense eye pain and feared he was going blind.
“Essentially the feeling that there is sand in my eyes and it can’t be washed or blinked away,” he said.
Acey began reaching out to other people experiencing similar problems and, after researching online, the group discovered the symptoms they were suffering from could be caused by UV lighting.
He then returned to the venue, spoke to staff and took photos of what looks to be a UVC light.
Acey said he was told by staff there were three such lights set up in the lounge space among other neon tubes used during the event.
Photos sent by Acey show a light labelled Philips T30W/GW T8. According to information online, such lights use “double-ended UVC (germicidal) lamps used in professional water and air disinfection units”.
“They were centrally placed, I think I was facing in the direction of them, and I was DJing, so I was at the booth nearly all night, that’s maybe while I was affected the most,” said Acey.
He said he was diagnosed with conjunctivitis by a doctor, who noted the condition could be the result of exposure to UV lights.
Another attendee, who asked for his name not to be used, described a similar experience and was also diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis, which, he said, had begun to subside in recent days.
“I stayed for about 1-2 hours that night… then started feeling serious pain in my eyes at around 5am,. It woke me from my dreams,” he said, adding he experienced a “crazy flow of tears” and could only open his eyes later in the afternoon.
“I thought I was going blind.”
Hypebeast and Landmark have yet to respond to queries by Coconuts.
However, in a statement given to Hong Kong Free Press, Hypebeast said safety was the group’s “utmost priority” and that legal counsel had been brought in to manage the issue.
Hypebeast said it had contacted all of the 152 attendees but could not draw any conclusions at the moment, adding that an initial review “suggests that the light contractor might have installed a type of non-approved lighting in a part of the area in the venue without our knowledge.”
It recommended people who were at the opening seek medical attention if they are experiencing discomfort.
Acey said he was disappointed that Hypebeast chose to deal with individuals directly and didn’t immediately release a public statement to inform people.
“It smells like ‘we’ll take care of this quietly’ instead of getting out in front of it. I don’t appreciate that, it seems like the wrong way to go about it,” he said.
“Luckily, I got information from a friend that other people were having skin issues. I’ve never been sunburnt in my life until now.”