PPE often not developed for women, minority groups, study finds

Currently available PPE may not be optimal for female and minority healthcare workers given differences in facial dimensions, a study published Nov. 11 in BMJ Global Health found.

Researchers used five databases to gather 32 studies for systemic review and 15 studies for a meta-analysis on gender-based anthropometric differences. Pass rates, the proportion of participants that passed 'fit-testing' and were successful at identifying masks that fit, were compared.

Only English-based studies were used, which researchers noted as a limitation to the study. 

Fourteen of the studies in the meta analysis reported smaller PPE measurements for women compared with men, ranging from 0.37 mm to 22.05 mm. While this did not always result in lower pass rates, 12 of the studies reported worse performance and fit for women and 10 reported no gender effect. None of the studies provided disaggregated anthropometric data by ethnic group.

In analyzing differences in facial geometry, researchers found that masks made for white healthcare provided adequate fit for 41 percent of Latino professionals. Overall, minority cohorts had low to moderate pass rates. Minority groups were also underrepresented in fit trials, which prevented researchers from determining more race-based differences in PPE performance.

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