Dr. David McDonald, a mathematician who worked as a principal research scientist at the CSIRO for 15 years, has moved to the Victorian countryside to avoid electromagnetic radiation.
He wears custom-made clothing fashioned from metallic cloth, has screened his house with metal shields and even sleeps in a special tent to screen out Wi-Fi transmissions in hotels.
“When I go into a building with Wi-Fi I feel extremely ill,’’ he said yesterday.
“I get a very strong headache and the left hand side of my head feels numb.
“After ceasing that exposure, the symptoms disappear.’’
In a case that could set a precedent for workers’ compensation cases, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
(AAT) has ruled that the federal government’s insurer, Comcare, should compensate Dr McDonald for “aggravation of a condition of nausea, disorientation and headaches’’.
The judgement states that Dr McDonald told the CSIRO selection panel during his job interview that he suffered from sensitivity to electromagnetic frequencies — or EMF — emitted by computers, TVs, mobile phones, microwave ovens, power lines and transformers.
The CSIRO agreed to give him an assistant, so he could write programs on paper and have someone else punch the code into a computer.
But in 2005 it withdrew the administrative support and ordered Dr McDonald to trial working with a BlackBerry phone, an electronic projector and a desktop computer enclosed in a “Faraday cage’’ to block electrical fields.
“Dr McDonald became ill within minutes each time his computer was switched on,’’ the judgement states.
“He experienced nausea and headaches and suffered severe migraine 2-12 hours later.
“He felt unwell for several days after each attack.’’
Dr McDonald was allowed to work from home for six months — but when he tried returning to his Melbourne office in 2009 he “became too ill to continue’’ and took sick leave.
In May 2011 the CSIRO told Dr McDonald that it was “not medically possible for him to perform the requirements of his position’’.
AAT deputy president James Constance ruled that on the basis of the evidence of Dr McDonald, doctors and medical specialists, “I am satisfied that the migraines which immediately followed exposure to EMF were contributed to, to a significant degree, by Dr McDonald’s employment by the CSIRO’’.
The AAT ruling means he will continue to be paid 75 per cent of his salary, as compensation for his illness.
Dr McDonald said he felt schools should hardwire computers instead of using Wi-Fi.
“I fear for children who don’t know why they can’t concentrate, or why they feel nauseous,’’ he said.
“And cabling in the internet is much faster and more efficient than using Wi-Fi.’’
A Melbourne teacher with 30 years’ experience, Maureen Kirsch, quit supply teaching in 2011 because she felt Wi-Fi was giving her blinding headaches.
“There were schools I’d been going to for 10 or 15 years and never had a problem, then I started having problems with their Wi-Fi,’’ she said yesterday.
“I’d noticed that 17 laptops would go on and I couldn’t stand in the classroom.
“I felt like my head was going to explode, I came home with blurred vision and I couldn’t think straight.
“It happened continually and repeatedly until I was so ill I gave up.’’
Ms Kirsch said she first suffered symptoms when an electricity smart meter was installed in her home, and has since moved house.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton yesterday said electromagnetic sensitivity was not recognised as an illness.
He said there was “no known mechanism’’ for Wi-Fi to damage DNA.