Smelly metal

The musty smell of iron when you handle it is a form of body odor, so say a team of researchers from the US and Germany. The reaction of oils in your skin with iron ions produces a variety of volatile organic compounds that produce the "musty metallic" smell. Dietmar Glindemann and his colleagues at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the United States, the University of Leipzig, and the Leipzig Environmental Research Center also found that rubbing blood over skin results in a similar metallic smell formed from the same volatile molecules. They suggest that this "smell" of iron, is actually a way of sensing blood and could have helped our ancestors track wounded prey or find an injured fellow hunter.