Some friction materials have a bad smell when they are curing or heating up. Some linings have the traditional fried clutch smell or in the case of the DC Metro subway they smell like rotting fish. In a story Washington DC Examiner, a new smell was starting to crop up at train stations in the DC Metro area and passengers started to complain.
No one could find a dead body or open sewer. What was the source was new organic brake linings on some of the cars. In a statement to the public from the WMATA:
“The fishy odor is the result of organic brake pads. Our stock should be depleted soon. We have selected another manufacturer who does not use that material causing the strong odor. I apologize and thank you for your patience.”
These pads were effectively turning rail stations into the world’s largest Dutch ovens. The email tries to use the term “organic” in a way that it might make the smell less threatening. If they would have said, “We are currently using a friction material with a phenolic resin that emits a strong odor when the pads are applied,” lawyers would be outside the stations signing up clients for a class action law suit.