Personal Protective Equipment
Jeffrey L Arnold, MD, FACEP
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Raymond J Roberge, MD, MPH, FAAEM, FACMT
Personal Protective Equipment Introduction
Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to the respiratory equipment, garments, and barrier materials used to protect rescuers and medical personnel from exposure to biological, chemical, and radioactive hazards.
- The goal of personal protective equipment is to prevent the transfer of hazardous material from victims or the environment to rescue or health care workers.
- Different types of PPE may be used depending on the hazard present. The types of hazards addressed here include biological warfare agents (BWAs), chemical warfare agents (CWAs), and radioactive agents.
- The most common routes of exposure to these hazards include inhalation (breathing, from the air), skin contact, and ingestion (eating or drinking).
The use of personal protective equipment by the general public for protection against chemical and biological agents is controversial. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) does not recommend that the public purchase respiratory protective equipment (gas masks) for several reasons.
- The likelihood that any person will be involved in a chemical or biological attack is extremely low.
- The CDC believes that gas masks may cause a false sense of security for the public.
- Masks that aren’t used properly or that do not fit well do not provide adequate protection and may in fact be harmful to one's health.
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