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These blood-type tattoos remind people that getting inked doesn’t mean you can’t give blood

A campaign from the Red Cross in Finland explicitly links tattoos and blood donation.

These blood-type tattoos remind people that getting inked doesn’t mean you can’t give blood
[Photo: courtesy Finnish Red Cross Blood Service]
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One tattoo features a black spiderweb with red at the center where you’re supposed to list your blood type. Another has a flying bird carrying a tiny banner for the same info. Then there are the cartoon characters: If you’re O+, for instance, you could opt for the smiley O-shaped figure who carries a sign with a large plus on it. Get it? If not, maybe opt for the more classic cursive or gothic font meant for straightforward lettering.

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As a new PSA shows, people in Finland now have all of these options available at their local tattoo parlors. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service created them to battle the misconception that you can’t give blood if you’ve ever been tattooed. That’s not true, although there is a waiting period. In Finland, it’s four months. (In the U.S. there’s no waiting period, as long as you go to a state-regulated shop that uses sterile needles. The catch is that several states don’t regulate; the American Red Cross encourages a 12-month hiatus if you’re unsure to avoid transmitting hepatitis.)

In order to create the PSA, the Red Cross had to entice people to actually try their ink. That happened in early February, when the organization sponsored a blood drive offering participants the chance to receive one of their customizable offerings after donating at Legacy Tattoo in Helsinki. The organization says hundreds of people took advantage of the offer, prompting it to distribute its templates to shops around the country.

[Image: courtesy Finnish Red Cross Blood Service]
Finnish people apparently love tattoos. The country also faces a blood shortage and questions about how to encourage the next generation of donors. This concept could help solve that, or at least the stigma around getting inked and donating. Especially considering those targeted aren’t afraid of needles.

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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