A China-wide head-measuring project may lead to better-fitting flu masks for Chinese faces following concerns over ill-fitting masks designed overseas that were used during the Sars epidemic. The World Health Organisation has approached a research team from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which scanned the heads of 2,000 people in Beijing, Changchun , Xian , Chengdu , Hangzhou and Guangzhou, said Roger Ball, SizeChina Asia's project leader. 'We've been approached by the WHO to start working on a design for Asian face masks for Sars and bird flu,' said Mr Ball, of the university's school of design and leader of the Asian Ergonomic Lab. The WHO had 'identified that ill-fitting masks were a problem during Sars and they've heard about our work', he added. The concept of masks made specifically to fit Chinese faces has been welcomed by members of Hong Kong's medical community. Infectious-diseases expert Lo Wing-lok said most masks used during the peak of the Sars outbreak were manufactured in the US. 'The WHO can collect this data and send it to various mask producers throughout the world. The most realistic solution would be to encourage people to produce these masks in mainland China so we have a local supply,' Dr Lo said. Medical Association president Choi Kin said that, during Sars, there had been a shortage of well-fitting protective masks. 'There was a concern about the degree of the fitting of masks, especially from doctors in the public sector,' Dr Choi said. 'There were complaints by public doctors that the Hospital Authority was providing masks that did not adequately fit their facial features.' The HK$6.2 million head-measuring project, which began in April, will not only aid the design of masks, it will also mean that hats, sunglasses, helmets and earphones can be designed for Chinese heads. Since April, Mr Ball's team has been travelling throughout the mainland, visiting universities and community centres, convincing locals to wear nylon hats, have red dots stuck to their heads and sit still for 17 seconds while a computer creates an exact digital image of their heads. Mr Ball said there no difficulty in persuading people to volunteer because 'every Chinese person can relate to the problem of trying to get headgear to fit them properly'. A common perception that the heads of people from northern and southern China were different from each other was not borne out in the scans, Mr Ball said. But they did prove that men and women have different heads, with men's heads being pointier and bigger.