America is one of the only developed countries in the world that pays people to donate blood, much of it sold abroad (70% of the world's plasma is of US origin), and as commercial blood donations have soared, blood now accounts for 2% of the country's exports — more than corn or soya.
There's more growth ahead for blood products, expected to "grow radiantly" according to an analyst who was cheering 13% growth between 2016-17.
One study found that the typical blood-seller derives a third of their income from selling blood. Princeton's Kathryn Edin called the commercial blood industry "the lifeblood of the $2 a day poor."
Mintpress's interviews with blood-sellers reveal "a mix of disabled, working poor, homeless, single parents, and college students," who describe a system of arbitrary and predatory payments, which fluxuate wildly from day to day.
Chronic bloodletting produces lethargy and cognitive impairment.
Respondents all agreed that they were indeed being exploited, but in more ways than one. Desperate Americans are allowed to donate twice per week (104 times per year). But losing that much plasma could have serious health consequences, most of which have not been studied Professor Schaefer warns, stressing that more research is necessary. Around 70 percent of donors experience health complications. Donors have a lower protein count in their blood, putting them at greater risk of infections and liver and kidney disorders. Many regulars suffer from near-permanent fatigue and are borderline anemic. All this for an average of $30 per visit. Rachel described the terrible Catch-22 many of the working poor find themselves in:
I got turned away twice – once for being too dehydrated and once for being anemic. Being poor created a shitty paradox where I couldn't eat, and because I couldn't eat my iron levels weren't high enough to allow me to donate. That was a week of a pay cut, money I desperately needed for rent and bills and meds."
Harvesting the Blood of America's Poor: The Latest Stage of Capitalism [Alan Macleod/Mint Press News]