What % of the Population is Ineligible to Donate Blood

I donated some blood last week at an American Red Cross blood drive, and as usual, I was amazed at the length and specificity of the questionnaire that I had to fill out. “Have you had sex with someone who has had an African ferret as a pet, even once, since 1977?” and the like. I’m not complaining about the guidlines(found here), but as I lay on the gurney with my lifeblood leaking out into a little baggie, it occurred to me that practically everyone I know would be ineligible for one reason or another.

It got me wondering what percentage of the U.S. population is actually eligible to give blood at any particular time according to the guidelines set forth by the American Red Cross.

Does anybody know if this information is available? If not, maybe we can make some edumacated guesses. Complicating the issue is the fact that ineligibility can be temporary or permanent, and often depends on subjective criteria and data that is difficult to accurately collect.

So, does anybody know, or are we going to have to figure it out for ourselves?

Oops. Lack of blood must be affecting my brain. The blood drive wasn’t for the Red Cross but for the New York Blood Center. No matter. We should still use the Red Cross guidelines for the purposes of this thread.

Though the list of criterias is long, many are “time limited”. I would GUESS that at any given time, fifty-five to sixty per cent of the population is eligible to give blood. The age criteria would be the biggest exclusion factor, I would guess.

Im assuming they always balance the two in any given area, safety vs size of pool as a result?

In Australia anyone who’s travelled to the UK in a certain time period is excluded for instance - Im guessing blood donation the UK didnt have that as an option because it would make things a mite tricky.


I can never give blood. Not only did I take antibiotics for acne in high school, I had a European ferret as a pet in 1976, and would’ve just barely made it except I just had to date a gay chimpanzee with an African ferret as a pet in 1977, and he didn’t mention that he’d spent 20 minutes in Lisbon in 1960! And how was I supposed to know I shouldn’t have shot up heroin with the African ferret in 1983? :rolleyes:

They could just say that you had to be Australian to give blood, which would’ve opened up a black hole right then and there, sucked up the entire UK and spat it out as antimatter, and then it would be a moot point and the folks who needed the blood wouldn’t need it anymore anyway.

Some exclusions make sense, but unfortunately a great many of them arel behavior-based. This is because there are blood-borne diseases, like some of the hepatitis viruses, which a donor can spread to the people who need his blood, long before he has any signs or symptoms of the disease. That means, long before his lab tests are positive. So they exclude anyone who might have hepatitis based on risky behavior.

But this excludes thousands of willing donors who aren’t infectious, because of the description of “risky”. Monogamous gay men in committed partnerships. People with recent tattoos. (Used to be anyone with a tattoo - ever - they had to redefine “risky” for that.) One that really irks me, because it’s not an exclusion in Europe but it is here, is people with hemochromatosis.

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a disease in which your body sucks iron out of your diet as if you had a beach-sweeping metal detector in your stomach. People with this disease overload themselves on iron, and may die of it in their forties (for men; women are relatively protected because they bleed a little every month). Until they develop arthritis, cirrhosis, heart disease, etc. from iron overload, they are perfectly healthy. The only good way to get the iron out of their bodies is to take blood out of them.

In Europe their blood is taken from them for free and is used in blood banks. In America their insurance has to pay for the blood removal, and the blood is either discarded, or used in research. Why? The FDA is afraid of “motivated donors”.

Stupid, says I. Stupid.

An interesting note on HH - it can be traced back to one small tribe in Ireland about 20,000 years ago. It was an accidental mutation, but it seems to have spread widely through the Celts (who, at the time, had a range from Ireland to Moscow, Denmark to Italy). It is likely to have spread widely because diets at the time were so iron-poor. Specifically, everybody was starving, there was next to no meat to be had, and if you could hoover iron out of the poor vegetables you could get, you were likelier to survive and leave offspring. People with an irish or German heritage have one chance in four of carrying the allele.

If you are German/Irish I suggest you get tested for HH. It’s a cheek swab test and, in the US, it costs about $125. I am not associated with any lab that does testing. I just autopsy people who have died too young.

NIH, 1994: 50% are eligible.

Many other sites say 60%, and are so similarly worded that my guess is they’re taken from the same source, older than the NIH one.

:smack: NIH 2004

I’ve been temporarily rejected several times.
My temp was too high;
I had an amateur piercing;
I had been to the UK within some now expired time period;
I had traveled in some remote parts in Mexico during some now expired period.

I’ve always wanted to try this exchange:
“Have you ever had sex in exchange for money or drugs?”
“Er, not money or drugs…car parts…this one time for some Skittles…oh, yea, once as part of a plea bargain, crazy freaky DA.”

Actually, though, I believe they used to say that diabetics couldn’t donate. Now, many chronic conditions just need to be under control.

I actually asked one of the mobile blood banks here the same question and was surprised with an “over 50% are not eligible” response. As I walked out sadly and full of blood (rejected-recent tattoo, time in some countries in the middle east, and the anthrax shot series), I realized why there might be a shortage:

Who in their right mind would not want my anthrax resistant blood?

Only slightly unrelated, there is an obvious risk that some people are going to tell lies when filling in the questionnaire. This presupposes that all donations are tested for unwanted content, which in turn must cast some doubt on the value of framing such questions in the first place.

Can anyone confirm that all blood given is tested?

It’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk, but it is possible to mitigate the risk somewhat, which is what they do. There are some folks who will test positive for various diseases, and they eliminate them with the testing. There are some folks who are engaging in risky behaviours, and admit it. Those folks are eliminated in the questioning. It’s only the folks who are carrying diseases at a stage undetectable in the testing and who lie on the questionaire who get bad blood into the system, and that’s a much smaller group than if they relied on the tests or the questions alone.

Risk mitigation also determines how the categories are defined. A gay man in a monogamous relationship where neither partner has had any other partners is at no greater risk for disease than anyone else, and at less risk than a straight man who has had multiple partners. But a gay man in a monagomous relationship with a fellow who had many partners previously is at risk, and might not know it. And there’s only so far that you’re going to be able to trace sexual relationships. So they eliminate all men who have ever had sex with other men, because that’s much simpler.

Last time I tried to give blood (rejected for having a cold), the booklet they gave me said all blood is tested for all manner of things, and there was a box you could check off to have them send you a letter if they find out you’re positive for some nasty thing you aren’t aware of.

We had a blood drive at work and it hacked me off as I take Ziac 2.5 for high blood pressure. It’s a very mild combination diuretic and beta blocker.

Well it’s fine I understand rules, but this stupid nurse told me AFTER she took the blood she wouldn’t be able to use it.

That is how I found out I wasn’t able to donate blood.

OK, that makes sense. Thank you.

I could be mistaken, but I believe this exclusion has been removed in recent years. There was something in the local paper about it and I recall that a this got a local congressman interested in it (most, if not all, the exclusions are dictated by federal law). I think he got the law changed, but could be wrong.

Note that I am more or less permanently excluded from giving blood. No, I didn’t date a pet ferret (either African or European) or anything like that. What I have is high quantities of a liver protein called ALT in my blood. In the days before they could test for HepC, they used this protein as an indicator that one might have it. But it’s also high in people who don’t have HepC. And even though they now have a test for HepC, they still reject people with high values of ALT. (As I understand it, this is also a requirement of federal law and was not changed when they added the test for HepC.)

I’ve never heard that one. I’ve donated just over 3 gallons in my life, and most of the questions are about sexual partners since 1977.

Of course. Sexual partners…with African ferrets.

You really ought to go to all those hospitals and apologize.

One thing that helps, with the American Red Cross at least, is that after they’ve gone over the questionnaire and do the checkup, they leave you with a sheet of paper with two barcoded stickers. One stands for “use my blood” and the other “do not use my blood.” After you peel the sticker off, you can’t tell which is which. I presume this is so that if someone is too embarrassed to admit to risky behavior, they can put that sticker on their paperwork, go through the donation process, and know that their blood won’t make it into the supply.