Why Thousands of Low-Income Americans 'Donate' Their Blood Plasma

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Every day in cities across the country, tens of thousands of people wait in line to have a needle put in their arms for up to two hours.

Instead of donating their blood plasma, these people receive payments for the time it takes to give their plasma -- the clear, straw-colored liquid part of the blood that contains special proteins -- to for-profit companies. The companies purify the plasma, turning it into life-saving drugs for immune disorders and other drugs, including those used in cancer and transplant patients.

“I donate specifically for the money because I work a minimum wage job. I work as a cashier and a stocker. I used to work as a repair technician for 14 bucks an hour, so I’m used to more than what I’m getting,” David, who donates his plasma, said.

In the U.S., most people technically donate their plasma but are paid for their time doing that.

The U.S. supplies 94 percent of the plasma used around the world. And nearly 80 percent of the plasma centers in the U.S. are located in America’s poorer neighborhoods.

Many of the people who frequent these centers to give their plasma are full-time workers and low-income Americans who are just unable to make ends meet.

William, who has two children and works at a Burger King in Kansas City, Missouri, says he gives his blood plasma twice a week.

“I go Fridays and Sundays. Right arm I use Friday. Other I use Sunday. I switch up every time,” William said. “It’s a 21-gauge needle, so it’s pretty thick.”

The payment they receive averages about $30 to $40, and for the companies, it is a $19.7 billion global industry.

Many foreign companies come to the U.S. to get the plasma for certain drugs instead of where they are headquartered because the laws in the U.S. are favorable for plasma donations.

“For a majority of people -- apparently -- it’s relatively safe. We really don’t know what the long-term effects because it’s a relatively new phenomenon," Dr. Roger Kobayashi, a clinical professor of immunology at UCLA, said.

According to the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, the frequency and volume parameters for plasma donation are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and have been in use for approximately 50 years.

"These regulations and guidelines are based on the best available science and are in place to protect the health of plasma donors. In just the past decade, the industry has collected more than 235,000,000 source plasma donations from dedicated donors that have treated hundreds of thousands of patients all over the world," the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA) said in a statement to ABC News. "Source plasma donation is safe and is highly regulated. Donors must meet criteria defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and voluntary industry standards. Healthy, committed donors are the foundation of plasma-derived therapies."

Kobayashi said what was once “a simple gift of life has now evolved into a multi-national, highly profitable corporate enterprise.”

“What was once an act of altruism has now evolved into an act of necessity or desperation,” said Kobayashi.

"To guarantee a safe and adequate supply of donated source plasma, it is standard industry practice to compensate donors for the significant commitment of personal time and effort required to donate," the PPTA said in a statement. "Without voluntary compensated plasma donors, a shortage of plasma would occur and manufacturers would not have the plasma they need to produce the amount of vital, life-saving therapies that are required by individuals with severe, life-threatening, chronic disease and disorders."

Gaylord, who, like William, lives in Kansas City, has two young children and gives plasma twice a week.

“[It’s] great to save somebody else’s life. You’re actually helping somebody else out here too,” Gaylord said.

On one occasion, Gaylord said he was giving plasma because his daughter had a birthday, and he needed $7.50 to buy her a bathing suit and money for a cake. He said he doesn’t want his kids to know about him giving his plasma.

“I try to take off my bandage before I get home. They ask me, ‘What’s that?’” Gaylord said of the needle scar on his arm. “I’m like, ‘It’s just a sore.’ I kind of try to, like, cover it up and change the subject. They don’t really need to know that, you know.”

When ABC News met Gaylord, he was working two jobs and is trying to get a third job, but he said in order to do so, he would need a car.

“I would be more ‘presentable,’” Gaylord said. “Place I walk -- I won’t be sweating.”

Gaylord, who said he’s had a tough life growing up, said he doesn’t resent what other people have and just wants to have enough to take care of his family.

“[I want] a bank account to where if the kids do get sick or if something happens, we take care of it,” he said.

Gaylord said he hopes for a future where he doesn’t have to give plasma to give his daughter a smile on her birthday.

“I’m grateful for any and everything that God sends my way,” Gaylord said. “However, it’ just ain’t right. People will pass you by, whatever. They don’t know what you’re going through. There’s poverty. There’s a lot of poverty around here.”

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Economic Realities in America: By the Numbers

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the Diane Sawyer report, "My Reality: A Hidden America," for a special edition of ABC News 20/20, ABC News chronicles a reality of millions of Americans working harder than ever but struggling to stay in the middle class, or striving to get in.

For so many, the American Dream’s opportunities seem to have dwindled. The numbers that follow are part of a larger conversation about today’s middle class and hard-working poor:

68 – The percentage of the country’s income growth since 1980 that went to the top 10 percent of earners. (National Bureau of Economic Research)

0 – The percentage of the country’s income growth since 1980 that went to the entire bottom half of earners. (National Bureau of Economic Research)

117 – The number of million Americans whose income has fallen or barely kept up with inflation in almost four decades. That is half of the country. (National Bureau of Economic Research)

45 – The percentage of middle income millennials who earn more than their parents did at the same age, adjusted for inflation. A half century ago, 93 percent of middle income Americans earned more than their parents had, adjusted for inflation. (National Bureau of Economic Research)

50 – The percentage of Americans who are middle class. In 1971, it was 61 percent. (Pew Research Center)

92 – The number of metro areas where buying a home is unaffordable for families making a median household income. (Center for Housing Policy)

53 – The percentage of Americans who say they do not have enough savings to cover three months of living expenses if they lose their job. (Federal Reserve Survey, 2015)

56 – The percentage of the fastest growing new jobs that will pay, on average, under $12 an hour. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, analyzed by ABC News)

73 – The percentage of public assistance that goes to working families. (UC Berkeley Labor Center)

56,516 – The annual median household income in the United States. (US Census Bureau)

Watch the Diane Sawyer report, "My Reality: A Hidden America," for a special edition of ABC News 20/20 airing on Friday, Jan. 13, at 10 p.m. ET.

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Guilty Plea from Airbag Maker Takata Could Come Friday

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Japanese automotive airbag maker Takata, which has been implicated in more than a dozen deaths, may plead guilty to criminal misconduct as early as Friday.

The split-second deployment of an airbag is designed to cushion drivers and passengers involved in car accidents. But in at least 16 cases worldwide, malfunctioning airbag inflators from Takata have killed the people they were meant to save. The recall began with a relatively modest 14 million cars and trucks, and later expanded to 34 million that may have been equipped with faulty airbag inflators. More than a dozen automakers were using Takata airbags and inflators, which, investigators say, can explode and spray shrapnel in a collision.

A criminal probe has implicated Takata as the source of the defective parts and the company in expected pay $1 billion, with $125 million going to victims or their families.

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Tom Brady Will Make Super Bowl LI Appearance in New Intel Ad

Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — Intel debuted its upcoming Super Bowl 2017 commercial starring Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to show off and promote the company's new 360-degree replay technology.

The new feature zooms in to highlight in-depth views from a variety of angles on replays.

In the ad, Brady is seen yawning and stretching his arms in bed while the announcer boasts, "Intel 360 Replay makes anything look epic."

As Brady brushes his teeth while wearing pajamas the announcer says, "Literally anything."

Many companies have paid a hefty price for a coveted Super Bowl commercial spot. This year, one 30-second ad during the Feb. 5 game will reportedly cost $5 million.

Advertisers pre-release some of the ads to try to get the most bang for their buck.

"They will get people talking about their ad early," Adweek magazine editorial director James Cooper told ABC News of the Intel ad. "It's got Tom Brady, who is football royalty."

Separately, the parent company of Snickers, known for buzzy Super Bowl ads, announced Wednesday it will revamp the famous "You're not you when you're hungry" ad campaign by featuring Star Wars actor Adam Driver in their Super Bowl 51 ad.

Adweek’s Cooper said the announced Snickers ad would be a good way to play up an already successful pop-culture reference.

"Companies advertising in the Super Bowl like Snickers created around Star Wars are really trying to tap into popular culture and a certain zeitgeist," he said.

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Nintendo to Reveal Details on New 'Switch' Console

Nintendo(TOKYO) -- Japanese video game giant Nintendo held a press conference on Thursday night (Friday afternoon in Japan) revealing details about its new console, named the Nintendo Switch.

The console, set to be released in March, was first announced in Fall 2016.

The console is meant to be used both at home and on-the-go. It features a small portable screen that can also be relayed over a home television screen.

During the press conference, representatives of Nintendo revealed titles in two of its major franchises - The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers - that will be released for the new console.

The Nintendo Switch has a suggested retail price of $299.99.

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C-SPAN Online Broadcast of House Proceedings Interrupted by RT

Thinkstock/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- C-SPAN viewers who tuned into the network's online broadcast of House proceedings on Thursday afternoon found their stream suddenly interrupted for a few minutes by a broadcast from a different network: RT.

RT, formerly known as Russia Today, is an English-language television network owned by the Russian government.

A spokesperson for C-SPAN told the New York Times that the outage happened around 2:30pm (Eastern), and only affected online viewers.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the network said the situation was being investigated, but they are "currently operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue," as RT is one of the networks they monitor internally.

"If that [assumption] changes," the statement read, "we will certainly let you know."

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EPA Notifies FiatChrysler of Emissions Violations

MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) — Federal regulators accused another car company of violating pollution laws. A day after Volkswagen agreed to plead guilty and pay a record fine for cheating emissions tests, the Environmental Protection Agency accused FiatChrysler of doing the same.

“Failing to disclose software that affects emissions in a vehicle’s engine is a serious violation of the law, which can result in harmful pollution in the air we breathe,”said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We continue to investigate the nature and impact of these devices. All automakers must play by the same rules, and we will continue to hold companies accountable that gain an unfair and illegal competitive advantage.”

The EPA alleges that more than a 100,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines polluted the air more than they should have.

“FiatChrysler programmed the vehicles with software that reduces the effectiveness of critical emissions control functions,” Giles said.

In a statement Thursday, FiatChrysler said not only that the company “believes its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements,” but that they also “are properly justified.”

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Why T-Mobile’s CEO Eavesdrops on Customer Service Calls

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- If you’ve ever had to call a 1-800 hotline number for customer service, you may have experienced something similar to the following: an automated voice listing extension after extension for various service options (“For new orders, press one. For returning customers, press two…”).

Jazz music plays in the background as you patiently hold for a human representative that might actually be able to answer your question. Sound frustratingly familiar? You’re not alone.

But what if you knew that once you connected with, let’s say, a T-Mobile customer service rep, the company CEO maybe be secretly listening in on your call?

That is exactly what John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, says he did when he first took over the helm at the wireless carrier in 2012.

During an interview at CES with ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis, Legere divulged his strategy to make sure his employees and customers are communicating effectively, and with the correct data.

“I would dial into an observation where I could hear both sides of customer service callers. And I would get a bottle of wine and I would sit for hours, and I would hear everything that went on,” Legere said. “I learned everything I needed to know. I still do it now, and it’s fantastic.”

Legere went on to explain that he would then compare the calls with data he received as CEO from internal staff meetings, and if there were any discrepancies with information, he would know there was a problem.

“We have tremendous amounts of data. But if that call doesn’t have the same kind of gist of the data, it’s wrong," he said.

The infamous “un-carrier” CEO has become well-known for his unconventional, creative approach. His constant social media presence helps make him accessible to his customers (and critics) and he is a self-proclaimed "Batman," who refers to competitors AT&T and Verizon as "dumb and dumber." He even hosts a live weekly cooking show from his personal Facebook page.

“Now, I probably spend more time than anybody would think is appropriate for a CEO on social,” Legere said. “[But] it’s not a game. I’m learning everything I need to know from my customers, employees.”

Eccentric, maybe -- but apparently effective, too.

Since Legere signed on with the company over four years ago, T-Mobile US has transformed from a low-level mobile carrier to an industry disrupter. Legere has transformed in the process as well: growing out his crew cut and trading his suits for T-Mobile-branded magenta Converse All-Stars and leather jackets.

Prior to joining T-Mobile, Legere was CEO of Global Crossing Limited and a 20-year employee at AT&T.

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NFL Playoffs: Beware of Fake Tickets

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- Playoff fever is high in the cities whose teams have made it to the NFL's divisional rounds. But also running high is the risk of getting ripped off.

Seats for the four NFL playoff games will be in the thousands, says ticket broker Robert Lodes.

"When the dollars are real high, the chance for fraud is real high," Lodes says.

Experts urge fans to study their tickets carefully for signs of smudged ink or imperfect logos. Also, watch out for tickets bought on Craiglist.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


What Kind of Home $192,000 Gets You Across America

Courtesy Trulia(NEW YORK) — ABC News reviewed various housing costs across the United States as part of the Diane Sawyer report, “My Reality: A Hidden America,” to air in a special edition of ABC News 20/20 on Friday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. ET.

According to the online real estate marketplace Trulia, the median price point for a single family home in the United states is $192,500 as of January 2017. Here is a sampling of listings for different homes across the U.S. that can be purchased at or below that price:

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