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Why Blood Donations Just Keep Flowing

When Should Individuals Tap Out

Donating plasma too frequently can not only be dangerous for your health but will also damage the quality of the plasma

By John Salak –

Josephine Michaluk, an 80-year-old Canadian woman, just earned a Guinness World Record for donating the most whole blood for a female. Apparently, Michaluk has been at it since 1965 and to date has delivered up to 203 units of whole blood. The accomplishment is noble as donations are essential and she should be applauded.

But whether Michaluk is the actual donor leader is unclear. So, in fact, is the whole process of donating blood thanks to the difference between nonprofit and for-profit blood centers.

Go to the Red Cross to donate just plasma and a person is limited to one contribution every 28 days—13 times a year. But those who use for-profit plasma centers sell plasma up to twice a week, which equates to 104 times a year. Whole blood, the most common type of donation, is an entirely different situation and is limited to once every 56 days or about six times a year.

With demand high, this is little wonder why the global blood industry is a multi-billion dollar business. The money-making side also isn’t lost on those willing to open up a vein twice a week at $55-$70 a pint of plasma. Business Insider, in fact, noted that Patrick Herdener has been giving blood donations for money for years and brings in about $6,500 a year through the practice.

Herdener notes that his plasma pints—usually given on Wednesdays and Fridays—aren’t his main source of income, but he added that the extra money still comes in handy. 

“This isn’t my main income though,” he told Business Insider. “I mostly use this to buy my wife and kids birthday gifts and Christmas presents. And to replace parts on my mountain bike. I break a lot of parts.”

Okay, that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in some extra cash. In fact, lots of people have done the same—perhaps to a lesser extent—at one point, especially when young. If not, chances are a friend or college roommate sold some plasma. But putting out over a hundred pints of plasma a year sounds creepy, dangerous and painful—take your choice.

Hitting the annual hundred-pint mark is probably technically safe, otherwise, some federal agency would have moved to prevent that kind of frequency. Still, there seem to be a lot of discrepancies over what’s ideal.

The Red Cross, as noted, comes in for plasma donations at once every 28 days, 13 times a year. For-profit centers claim they can take plasma up to eight times more frequently.

What’s optimal for those serving up their plasma depends on who is answering the question. Obviously, any withdrawals need to be handled by a certified center. Beyond this, for-profits groups maintain there is no risks to giving plasma twice a week so long as there is at least a 24-hour window between withdrawals. Others aren’t as sure. 

“Donating plasma too frequently can not only be dangerous for your health but will also damage the quality of the plasma. A 2010 study found that plasma from people who donated more often and in higher volumes was considerably lower in total protein, albumin, and other blood markers. Therefore, we advise you to only donate plasma once every 28 days, preferably through donation centers such as those of the American Red Cross,” Dr. Daniel Marcus of Cedars Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital reported.

These differences aren’t likely to slow the flow of blood, which is essential. But it may give some pause to reconsider how often they should be tapping a vein. 





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