Monday, August 1, 2011

Open Letter to the American Red Cross


I am writing as someone who has donated over 144 pints of O- blood to others via the Red Cross in the PNW and Great Lakes Red Cross Regions. So I am a huge Red Cross supporter, and am a registered bone marrow donor.

However, I wince whenever I see the Red Cross mobile blood draw van parked outside the Oregon State Capitol building conducting onsite blood drives using a huge diesel bus that sits with its motor idling for hours and hours at a time -- when the Capitol is just a few steps away from a fully-staffed and nicely appointed Red Cross blood donation center! [0.4 miles, 8 min. on foot at most.]

Diesel exhaust is a public health hazard. The particulate emissions are a serious problem for any person who breathes. Moreover, the NOx and SOx emissions are health threats in their own right.

I am writing to ask that you consider the harm that you are causing, reflect on how it affects your mission, and devise a policy to eliminate diesel idling as part of your operations. If that means using utility grade extension cables to bring power to your mobile collection buses, so be it. Or move the collection into the building.

See for more on the health problems caused by diesel exhaust.

Thank you. I am posting this on my blog,, and I will be happy to give you an opportunity to respond.

UPDATE 2:  Much better:
Thanks for taking time to provide feedback on the American Red Cross.  First of all, thank you for your commitment to the cause of blood donation.  Donating over 144 units of blood demonstrates an incredible commitment and an understanding that the need for blood is constant.  I have asked members of my organization to look into the concerns you have raised about an idling bus motor.

It is not our standard practice to idle the motor on buses during blood drives.  In most settings we do have to rely on generators to power the buses.  I expect that it was the generator you have heard outside the Oregon State Capitol building and not the motor. 

As to your point that the capitol is a few steps away from one of our donor centers, we value having a center so close to the capitol and that center sees a great many employees and visitors from the capitol.  But, it is our experience that the convenience of having an established blood drive on capitol grounds attracts people to donate who may feel they are too busy or otherwise unable to get over to our donor center.  The capitol blood drives are generally very successful.  Given that the need for blood is constant, we attempt to accommodate donors in the best and most convenient ways possible.

We have conducted blood drives inside the capitol building in the past.  Unfortunately, those inside blood drives were subject to cancellation on short notice when senate or house business took priority for the space. 

As a result of your feedback, our Salem representatives are investigating the possibility of plugging in to electrical power at the capitol.  And, as we replace buses and generators, we will have particulate traps installed to mitigate the effects of the generators on the environment.  Thanks again for your feedback and past support.

Steve Stegeman | Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Northwest Blood Services Region - American Red Cross
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