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How the plasma industry is bleeding America

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For millions of people in the United States, earning extra money means rolling up their sleeves and presenting a vein.

They are selling a precious commodity— their own blood plasma— for approximately, on average, $40 dollars a visit.

The plasma is then processed and used to create lifesaving medicine that can cost into the thousands of dollars.

The blood plasma industry generated more than $24 billion in 2021. And because the United States is one of only six nations that allows the for-profit harvesting of plasma, much of the plasma used around the world comes out of the veins of Americans who sell it because they need money.

Kathleen McLaughlin’s book, "Blood Money" investigates those people who sell their plasma, why they do it and the negative side effects from the exchange.

McLaughlin exposes how the U.S. southern border has become an abundant source for blood plasma as for-profit collection centers are placed near the U.S. side of international bridges so Mexican citizens can cross and sell their plasma, which is something they can’t do in Mexico.


Kathleen McLaughlin, author Blood Money: The Story of Life, Death and Profit Inside America’s Blood Industry. She is a former Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT. Her reporting's been in The Economist, The Atlantic, on public radio and more.

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*This interview will be recorded on Monday, March 20.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi