The use of albumin for resuscitation has not proven as beneficial in human trials as expected from numerous animal studies. One explanation could be the practice of adding fatty acid (FA) during manufacture of pharmaceutical albumin. During ischemia, unbound free FAs (FFA) in the circulation could potentially induce cellular damage. We hypothesized that albumins with higher available binding capacities (ABC) for FFAs may prevent that damage. Therefore, we developed a technique to measure ABC, determined if pharmaceutical human serum albumin (HSA) has decreased ABC compared with FA-free bovine serum albumin (BSA), and if binding capacity would affect hemolysis when blood is mixed with exogenous FFA at levels similar to those observed in shock. The new assay used exogenous oleic acid (OA), glass fiber filtration, and a FFA assay kit. RBC hemolysis was determined by mixing 0 to 5 mM OA with PBS, HSA, FA-free BSA, or FA-saturated BSA and measuring plasma hemoglobin after incubation with human blood. 5% HSA contained 4.7±0.2 mM FFA, leaving an ABC of 5.0 ± 0.6 mM, compared with FA-free BSAs ABC of 7.0 ± 1.3 mM (P < 0.024). Hemolysis after OA was reduced with FA-free BSA but increased with FA-saturated BSA. HSA provided intermediate results. 25% solutions of FA-free BSA and HSA were more protective, while 25% FA-saturated BSA was more damaging than 5% solutions. These findings suggest that increased FA saturation may reverse albumin's potential benefit to lessen cellular damage and may explain, at least in part, its failure in human trauma studies.