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In Some States, One in Four Homes Rely Solely on Cell Phone, CDC Says


By Theresa Tamkins

THURSDAY, March 12, 2009 (Health.com) — Could your cell phone be bad for your health? Maybe. But not because it’s zapping your brain. According to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one-quarter of homes in certain areas, such as Oklahoma and Utah, lack a landline and are completely reliant on cell phones.

While that’s terrific news for reducing the cost of phone bills, it may not be so great in terms of health—or at least health care in general. The CDC often relies solely on landline phones when conducting large, state-based health surveys—biggies conducted every year to determine sexual habits, childhood immunizations rates, and dozens of others factors related to American health.

“It doesn’t affect health per se, rather it has implications for how well the CDC and others can track the health of the nation,” said Stephen Blumberg, PhD, senior scientist at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The federal government and states often use the survey information to set national health policies aimed at reducing the number of people who lack health insurance, decreasing high-risk behavior, and determining immunization rates for children and teens, Blumberg explained.

The CDC’s report is the first to compare wireless phone–only homes on a state-by-state basis. The new report is based on 2007 data, which found that Oklahoma had the highest percentage of cell phone–only homes (at 26 percent) and Vermont has the lowest (5 percent).

There are probably more landline-free homes now, as the rate has increasing by 3 percentage points each year, said Blumberg. “I’d expect today in 2009 the rate is probably 5 percentage points higher, perhaps even more,” he added. Overall, about one in six American homes, or about 18 percent, rely solely on wireless phones.

Next page: Young adults less likely to have landlines

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