Blood drives hindered by increasing tattoo popularity

By Catharine Hernson
April 18, 2002

Catharine Hernson

With tattoos growing in popularity among college students across the nation, blood drives on campuses may suffer, including Cabrini. With U.S. health advisors considering changes to the rules pertaining to blood donations from people with tattoos and body piercings, the number of blood donations from students may go down.

As of now blood donors in the U.S. have to wait a year to give blood after receiving a tattoo, or piercing in non-sterile conditions. The main reason is that during the tattooing or piercing procedure the recipient may have contracted viruses.

Many different thoughts are going into the rule changes, such as how to determine the sterility of the tattooing or piercing. Also the length of the waiting period is too long, since blood banks have much better tests to detect viruses and infections.

Piercings do not affect donor turnout as much as tattoos do, since much less bleeding is involved. Susan Fitzgerald, college nurse, explained that getting a piercing does not have as much a chance of contaminating the blood as getting a tattoo. Tattoos involve a lot of bleeding; therefore there is more of a chance that a virus could be transferred.

The semi-annual blood drive, held Monday, April 8, 2002, was a disappointment to Fitzgerald. Only 46 donors came to the drive and 34 were able to donate a usable pint. Fitzgerald believes that this may have to do with students signing up to donate with no intention of actually going to the drive. Tattoos and piercings don’t have as much of an impact of the deferral rate at the drive. “We make sure the students are aware, so they don’t sign up and get deferred. We try and make it clear during recruiting,” Fitzgerald said.

The amount of blood being donated will be affected by the increasing popularity of tattoos and body piercings. It is believed to affect the college population more so than the general blood donating public. “It is the age group that gets tattoos more,” Fitzgerald said, how it will affect the blood supply is dependent on what percentage of actual blood donors are college students.

The Red Cross is always in need of more blood and is adamant about the fact that “every unit counts.” Of the 34 pints donated by Cabrini students this spring over 100 people were able to receive blood.

For more information about giving blood or regulations regarding tattoos and piercings go to

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Catharine Hernson

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