Climate disasters and high travel rates result in national blood shortage
Demand for blood increases with climate disasters while supply decreases due to travel and weather complications
In a press release Monday, the American Red Cross alerted that the “national blood supply has fallen to critically low levels — dropping nearly 25% — since early August.” It warned that this decrease may potentially impact patients “with an emergency need for blood” or those dependent on “lifesaving blood transfusions.”
Red Cross Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pampee Young said, “Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood — an often-invisible emergency that the rest of the world doesn’t see behind closed hospital doors. Now, that urgency has only heightened,” per CNN.
Possible factors contributing to the blood shortage include:
1. Lack of donors
This summer, from July Fourth to Labor Day, blood donation decreased by 20%, according to Impact Life. Meanwhile, air travel demand this July was 12% higher than air travel demand in July 2022, and total travel spending “was up 4.1% year-to-date through July 2023,” per the U.S. Travel Association. This summer was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 when travel resembled what it normally was in previous years.
Likewise, the dominant population of blood donors is becoming increasingly older. Blood Centers of America Vice President Jenny Ficenec told CNN that for her organization, only 20% of blood donations come from 20- to 34-year-olds, and “over 45% of blood donations come from donors over 50.”
2. Climate disasters
In addition to an increased demand for blood, climate disasters also inhibit the transportation of already collected blood. This summer had 23 confirmed climate disasters costing the U.S. over $1 billion each, per the NCEI. The Hawaii wildfires that started on Aug. 8 have killed “at least 115 people” and “cost upwards of $5.5 billion,” according to The Guardian.