This Top U.S. Export Is Banned in Many Other Countries

plasma donation


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Young man donating blood
Vladimir Vladimirov/istockphoto
Phlebotomist preparing patient to donate blood in hospital lab
SDI Productions/istockphoto

The Average 'Donation' Pays Around $65

Some plasma donation centers lure down-on-their-luck Americans or struggling college students by offering sometimes large incentives for their initial donations. Some places offer up to $900 for the first month, according to a CNBC report. After that people typically receive $35-$50 per donation. During the height of the pandemic, some college students even reportedly tried to contract COVID-19 to receive a higher payout for their plasma. 

Related: Surprising Things Made in Each State

Blood donorship. Young girl in red T-shirt hand taped with patch with red heart after giving blood on gray background. Copy space

Plasma Is a Nearly $44 Billion Industry

For large corporations, donors are a cash cow. There are three major players in the plasma business: CSL Plasma, Grifols, and BioLife. While donors get paid very little for their time and blood, the total plasma industry was valued at nearly $44 billion in 2021. According to the Niskanen Center, a Washington think tank, the U.S. supplies approximately 70% of the world’s plasma.

For more stories of the unusual and offbeat, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Young man donating blood
Vladimir Vladimirov/istockphoto

The Value of Blood Exports Increased 69% in 2021

The value of the blood export industry saw dramatic gains in 2021 with increases of just over 69% over the prior year. The only U.S. export in the top 10 to have higher growth was petroleum gasses with a 104% increase. 

Immunotek Bio Center
J. Michael Jones/istockphoto

Plasma Donation Centers Are More Common in Low-Income Areas

To make their billions, companies have systematically placed donation centers in primarily low-income areas. In fact, according to ABC News, almost 80% of centers are in poor neighborhoods. 

She gets points every time she swipes

For Many Americans, Donating Plasma Is a Major Source of Income

According to Business Insider, most regular donors couldn’t make ends meet without selling their plasma. Most often, they use the money for gas, rent, food, phone bills, and student loans. One donation center even reported that for 57% of donors, at least one-third of their monthly income came from their plasma donations. 

Blood plasma donation during coronavirus pandemic

Plasma Exports Are More Profitable Than Many Common Products

Blood fractions are more valuable than many common commodities. For example, plasma exports exceed the value of exports of automobile parts and accessories, cell phones, electro-medical equipment, soybeans, corn, computer parts, and even gold. 

Blood Donor Giving Blood in Medical Clinic

Blood Makes Up 2.69% of U.S. Exports

The U.S. is the largest exporter of plasma, and the majority of exported plasma is sold to China, Canada, Japan, and various European nations.  

Beautician will do PRP therapy for the face against wrinkles and against hair loss of a beautiful woman in beauty salon.Doctor holds test tubes with venous blood and blood plasma.Cosmetology concept.

Wealthy Customers Seek Anti-Aging Boost

Although many people need plasma for life-saving treatments, there is a subset of the ultra-rich who have their sights set on something else. Some people, like billionaire Peter Thiel, even seem to believe that getting “young donor” plasma transfusions are the key to the fountain of youth. 

Blood plasma as a hope for treatment of coronavirus. Syringe with blood plasma and blue sky. Banner, copy space

Other Countries Ban Paying for Plasma

If the entire system of plasma donation seems unethical, many countries would agree with you. In fact, many developed nations have banned paid plasma donations for exactly that reason. While some European Union countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Hungary allow paid plasma donation, others do not. This may change in the future as demand for plasma continues and many Europeans worry about relying on the United States for something so important. In Canada, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec also ban paid plasma donations.