You know that smell that you get on your hands after handling coins? It's not the coins causing the smell, it's you.
A new study finds that the smell of iron is, ironically, a type of human body odor, created by the breakdown of oils in skin after touching objects that contain the element.
"That we are smelling the metal itself is actually an illusion," said study team member Dietmar Glindemann of the University of Leipzig in Germany.
Scientists think it works like this: When touching objects made of iron, perspiration from skin causes the iron atoms to gain two electrons. The doubly negative iron atoms react with oil in skin, causing them to decompose, forming 1-octen-2-one.
Because blood contains iron, rubbing blood over skin produces a similar metallic smell, the researchers said.