FedEx pilots worried about anthrax exposure

FedEx Corp.’s pilots association is concerned that the mail delivery contract FedEx has with the United States Postal Service (USPS) may expose FedEx employees to anthrax. The treatment of 32 FedEx employees for suspected anthrax exposure prompted the FedEx Pilots Assn. to go public with its concerns over the company’s mail delivery contract. The pilots said FedEx has transported more than 3-million

FedEx Corp.’s pilots association is concerned that the mail delivery contract FedEx has with the United States Postal Service (USPS) may expose FedEx employees to anthrax. The treatment of 32 FedEx employees for suspected anthrax exposure prompted the FedEx Pilots Assn. to go public with its concerns over the company’s mail delivery contract.

The pilots said FedEx has transported more than 3-million lb. of express, priority and first class mail for the USPS per day since August 27. The pilots believe there are three ways exposure to anthrax is possible: through the aircraft, from the personnel operating and maintaining the aircraft, and ramp personnel who load and unload the aircraft.

The pilots want FedEx to do several things to guard against anthrax exposure. One is to test all aircraft filtration systems and cockpits once every 24 hours for anthrax spores. Next is to create tracking mechanisms, protocols, and procedures for affected personnel, equipment, and aircraft that are exposed to actual or suspected contamination, in both domestic and international locations. The third is to bag and seal all express mail and postal sacks in thick, clear bags prior to loading it into cargo containers.

Cargo containers should be sealed as much as possible to minimize the air circulating around any possibly contaminated packages that could introduce pathogens into the cockpit through the air conditioning/pressurization system. Finally, the pilots group wants anthrax vaccinations available to FedEx personnel on a voluntary basis.

"We are concerned that present procedures offer little protection to those employees involved in the transportation of postal service materials," said David Webb, the association’s president. "The postal containers are packed at postal facilities, not by FedEx personnel, so those containers present a very real and potentially fatal risk."

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