Well, not very much of it is made in the US.
In fact, a medical insider tells us that 90 per cent, yes, nearly all of our PPE are made outside the US and imported.
And where are they made?
China tops the list. Chinese manufacturers make the majority of the PPE we use especially masks and medical gowns. Mexico comes second in gown production. China and Malaysia supply most of all our examination gloves.
Alongside these countries, other Southeast Asian countries as well as Canada also provide us with PPE. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, India also stepped up its PPE production as it makes a lot of the fabric raw material needed in PPE like face masks such as non-woven fabric.
So why do we import so much from other countries?
Well, it all comes down to costs and economies of scale.
American manufacturing has become so expensive due to red tape and high labour costs while places like China have huge and willing labour forces to make things for much less. American manufacturers simply can’t compete with the prices set by factories in China.
And if they can’t make a profit when they cut their prices, they won’t survive. So there is no economic rationale for a high number of such manufacturers in the US.
Secondly, globalisation creates high degrees of specialisation, according to the Harvard Business Review.
“The days are long gone when a single vertically-integrated manufacturer like Ford or General Motors could design and manufacture all or most of the subassemblies and components it needs to make a finished product,” according to the Review.
“Technology is just too complicated, and it is impossible to possess all the skills that are necessary in just one place. Consequently, manufacturers have turned to specialists and subcontractors who narrowly focus on just one area and even those specialists have to rely on many others.”
And by “others”, it means other countries – usually those which can make things cheaper like China – which have become specialists in mass-production.
But during a global pandemic, even America’s most reliable outsourcers themselves run out of PPE stock themselves which leads to the rise of black markets in the US.
Sadly, our medical insider says there are many illegally imported inferior and counterfeited PPE circling the US at the moment.
If you don’t know what to order or want help with reliable PPE, talk to us. And if you’re not sure when and how much to buy, check out this guide we wrote.