Parts of the Washington, D.C. metro rail system is caked with a layer of human hair that is so thick it’s become a fire hazard, according to a transit union employee.
“I was flabbergasted — flabbergasted — at the amount of hair that’s in the Metro,” Brian Sherlock, a safety specialist for Amalgamated Transit Union, told NBC News.
“Hair literally comes off of people and off of clothing and gets sucked up,” Sherlock said.
The hair gets sucked up into the tunnel, and collects on insulators that house the electric third rail. The felt-like lining is 1/8 inches thick in some places, and could pose a fire risk by trapping heat, according to Amalgamated Transit Union’s study.
“The amount of debris is just beyond vulgar to think of,” Sherlock said.
“A lot of the issues with the insulators is actually fiber, and hair that literally comes off of people and clothing, and gets sucked up,” Paul Wiedenfield, general manager of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said.
Insulator sparking and smoking has been an issue with metro’s aging system for years, and was one of the reasons WMATA spent months in a disruptive overhaul of the system called SafeTrack starting in 2016.
After the SafeTrack project ended, arcing insulators on the Red line in D.C. shut down the trains for several hours in June of this year, leading many to wonder whether the repairs were effective. It’s unclear what caused that incident.
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