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Donor iron levels

It’s important for their health that blood donors maintain adequate stores of iron. In fact, the most common reason for being turned away from a donor centre (accounting for 75% of deferrals) is low levels of the iron-containing molecule haemoglobin.

Iron is vital to transport oxygen through the body and is an active part of the molecule (haemoglobin) which gives red blood cells their distinctive colour. Each whole blood donation contains approximately 200 mg of iron. Iron deficiency affects 1 in 10 Australian women of child-bearing age, and can result in tiredness and make it hard to concentrate.

Therefore, we’re:

  • developing and testing educational materials to inform donors of the benefits of iron supplements
  • testing the feasibility of providing iron supplements, and
  • measuring the effect of iron supplements on donor health over an extended period.

At the genetic level, a study is underway to identify parts of the genetic code which may influence iron metabolism and predict a successful blood donation career.

It is possible to have enough haemoglobin to be eligible to donate, but still have low iron stores in the body. Low iron stores will, if not replenished, lead to lower haemoglobin levels in future.

To ensure the ongoing well-being of our donors, the Blood Service has established the Donor Iron Strategy group who will develop recommendations to reduce iron deficiency in blood donors. The Donor Iron Strategy group involves staff with expertise in medicine, nursing, research, public relations and donor centre operations. Researchers are developing and testing educational materials to inform donors of the benefits of iron supplements, testing the feasibility of providing iron supplements, and measuring the effect of iron supplements on donor health over an extended period.