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FedEx pilots push for stiffer safety measures

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (CNN) -- Citing a "serious risk to air crews," Federal Express pilots Friday asked company officials to implement a battery of safety procedures to safeguard them from anthrax exposure, including providing anthrax vaccinations.

"We must act swiftly and prudently to ensure the safety of all FedEx employees," FedEx Pilots Association President Capt. David Webb said in a statement. "Developing protocols and contingency plans to address the anthrax exposure that has occurred in other sectors should signal our company to take immediate steps to cope with our employees' exposure, now that they have acknowledged that we have possible anthrax exposures."

As proof of the danger of exposure, the pilots union cited the treatment of 32 FedEx employees for what it called "suspected anthrax exposure." (The CDC has said these are not suspected cases.)

FedEx spokeswoman Sandra Munoz said the 32 employees treated with antibiotics were employees that were either in or had contact with the Brentwood postal facility in the nation's capital that processed an anthrax-laced letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota.

"Have any of them tested positive for anthrax? No. Have any of them displayed symptoms of anthrax? No," Munoz said.

Munoz said the safety and security of employees "is always top priority," which is why the employees in the D.C. area were treated.

The FedEx pilots union is concerned, however, that flight crews and ramp personnel who have contact with packages could be at risk. They want the company to implement new safety procedures, including testing aircraft filtration systems and cockpits once every 24 hours for anthrax spores and sealing all Express Mail and USPS bags in clear Mylar bags.

In addition, the pilots want the company to provide anthrax vaccinations to FedEx employees.

Munoz said the pilots met with executives Friday to talk over their concerns.

"Our impression at the end of the meeting was that they understood measures that the company has taken to ensure employee safety," she said.


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