BLOOD TESTS ∙ 4 minutes read

Blood diamonds and country exports: the surprising value of human blood

By Joseph Lee | Medically reviewed by Rupal Joshi

No matter where we come from in the world, despite our race, beliefs, size or background, one thing that unites us is our blood. The average living adult anywhere on the planet has around 10 pints of the life liquid coursing through their veins. 

But blood isn’t just pumping in our cardiovascular systems, it has a prominent value for many cultures and countries around the world. So, how is blood used as a dynamic and powerful symbol of life and wealth around the world?

Before ordering online blood tests was a thing. Before blood biomarkers could be analysed in a medical lab to tell you more about your health, the general outlook surrounding blood was much more mysterious. 

But despite a lack of medical science, technological advancement or biological know-how, ancient people were still aware of the value of blood, even if the crimson secretion remained a hidden secret. 

However, most of the time ancient people saw blood was during times of misfortune when it was flowing from a wound in battle, blood loss from childbirth, or during female menstruation. 

In the Middle Ages, violent Vikings created a gruesome sacrificial ritual the ‘blood-eagle’, which involved removing the lungs from the body of a live captor. Thankfully we’ve moved on leaps and bounds since then, and we know more about blood now than ever before. We know how valuable blood is.

The value of blood cells in our body

Blood has been valuable since early civilisations and was especially prized in ancient mythology. In Greek mythology, Medusa is said to have had special powers due to having two kinds of blood in her body. The blood on her right side produced a life-giving drug and the blood on her left was fatal, producing venomous snakes.

Human blood doesn’t have the power to bring reptiles to life. But the Ancient Greeks may have been onto something when viewing blood with such high value. There is scientific reasoning behind the idea of two types of blood in our bodies, too.

Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, a necessity required for our heart to beat and our brain to function. Whilst white blood cells are the body’s defence against infection and disease, ingesting foreign materials, destroying lethal pathogens and producing antibodies.

Blood cells in our body are priceless because without them we wouldn’t survive. But our blood also contains one of the most valuable precious metals in the world. Blood contains gold

The value of blood in the human body and humanity is priceless. However, it also has a financial value too. The red stuff is used throughout the modern world as an exported product. 

Why do countries export blood?

You may be surprised to know that human blood holds a valuable price in terms of money. There are a whole host of blood exporting countries across the world that trade blood as exported goods. 

Where some countries are known for their oil exports or food production, some nations trade blood as a staple part of their export economy. 

In 2018, Mexico exported over a tonne of blood overseas. This is the combined total of human and animal blood, as well as antisera, a blood serum that contains specific antibodies to fight infections or poisonous substances.

Closer to the UK, Ireland is a major exporter of blood. In 2020, Ireland made a pulse-raising $332.25 million from export of blood fractions, including human blood and blood serums, according to the United Nations database on international trade.

The value of blood around the world is rising. The global market for blood plasma exports is expected to reach $44,333 million by 2023. That’s enough money to make anyone go a little red in the cheeks. 

What is a blood diamond?

In 2019, the global diamond jewellery market was valued at $79 billion. This industry offers the potential for huge wealth and power. But the value of this precious gemstone has a history of being exploited for control and creating human suffering. 

The term ‘blood diamond’ was introduced to many audiences around the world following the film Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Di Caprio. But do blood diamonds really exist, and what is a blood diamond?

Sadly the answer is yes. Bloods diamonds, also known as red diamonds or conflict diamonds, refer to any diamond mined in a warzone to fund weapons of war and the activities of rebel military groups.

Blood diamonds can be found in many parts of the world with civil unrest and unstable political power. The finance of civil war in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea has been connected to the trade of blood diamonds.

A blood diamond may look like any other diamond. But its trade value can be used to fund rebel violence and genocide. Although the diamond industry has cleaned up its act over the past decade, blood diamond exploitation is unfortunately still a possibility for unstable nations who have access to this natural resource. 

Value of giving blood in the UK

Blood also provides the opportunity to give life, not take it away. And this can happen a lot closer to home, here in the UK.

Giving blood in the UK is seen as an individual charitable donation for those who wish to help save lives. Any fit and healthy individual can give blood in England but there are certain types of blood that are most in-demand.

Men are able to give blood more regularly than women and are urged to do so by the NHS Blood and Transplant unit. A common type of blood needed for black donors is Ro blood type. So if you are a black male in the UK, giving blood could be priceless.

The value of O negative blood type is regarded highly by many hospitals in the UK. This is because all patients can receive O negative blood. If you know you are this blood type, donating would be a brilliant thing to do. 

Getting paid for blood donation

In some countries around the world, the gesture of donating blood is incentivised by paying donors to part with their blood. In the US, Germany, and other countries around the world, people are given money to give blood. 

In the US, studies have shown that people who are paid to give blood are younger and more likely to be male, compared to those who volunteer as blood donors.

You can receive some financial incentive to give blood in Germany, however, it’s not exactly a sustainable ‘get rich quick scheme’. This is because the German Red Cross Blood Services, where about 80% of all blood donations in Germany are taken, do not offer any financial reimbursement. 

Another thing stopping people in Germany from running all the way to the bank with profits from blood is that national law, The German Transfusion Act, states blood donation can only be non-remunerated and on a voluntary basis. However, full blood donors can have their expenses covered with around 25 euros given for travel costs

The Bottom Line 

Blood is a powerful resource for people around the world. Understanding more about the role of blood can not only help us see its importance as a symbol but also shows the vitality of blood to enable each and every human to live. If you want to learn more about what's flowing through your body, the answers are just a few clicks and a finger prick away with a blood test you can do at home.

Related Articles