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What Are the Dangers of Blood Doping?

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Blood doping is one of the simplest way to improve your race time. By taking erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone usually produced by the liver and kidneys, you trigger your bone marrow to overproduce red blood cells, in effect boosting oxygen capacity. The result, as seven Tour de France titles show, is a boon for endurance, muscle recovery, and overall performance. It’s one hell of an enhancement—and it works fast too—but what's the downside?

“There are a few pretty substantial risks,” says Dr. Philip Friere Skiba, program director of sports medicine at Lutheran General Hospital. The most common is a blood clot that can lead to heart attack, stroke, or even sudden death in your sleep. “Increasing the blood count makes it more viscous,” says Skiba. “We call this ‘sludging,’ which can slow down your heart rate and cause clots.” To avoid the so-called sludging, you have to keep that heart pumping. There are stories of some doping athletes waking up in the middle of the night and doing jumping jacks to keep it moving. Others, at least anecdotally, weren’t so lucky, dying in their sleep.

Years from now, taking EPO to up your red blood cells will likely be considered as archaic as giving yourself a blood transfusion from saved bags of blood (like the first dopers did). Instead, we’ll turn to genetic tinkering for more oxygen. One study showed that by imparting such genes to monkeys, researchers could permanently up the amount of EPO that their bodies created. The problem for these unfortunate animals was the runaway blood cells caused their bodies to turn on the EPO hormone and fight it like a virus. The monkeys eventually died of anemia (or lack of red blood cells). If we learn how to give that gene an on/off switch, however—something that’s exceedingly difficult to do in genetic research today—we could regulate red blood cells for life. This would give you that untraceable edge for all your endurance sports. 

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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

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What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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