Air pollution may be damaging men’s ability to perform in the bedroom, scientists warn.
New research suggests regular exposure to toxic car fumes is linked with higher rates of erectile dysfunction.
Scientists believe inhaling poisonous particles may be triggering inflammation in blood vessels and starving the genitals of oxygen – affecting men’s ability to become sexually aroused.
It follows animal tests that showed regularly breathing in exhaust fumes damages sex drive.
The study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, coincides with renewed warnings from Public Health England that polluted city air is killing nearly 40,000 people a year.
Last week, it released a major report calling for local and national government action to clean up air quality.
It says smog in Britain’s cities is causing more cases of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.
A separate report last week in the European Heart Journal warned air pollution could be causing twice the number of deaths – more than 800,000 a year – across Europe than previously estimated.
Now the latest research suggests men’s love lives are also being harmed.
Previous studies have hinted at such a link.
A 2017 US investigation involving more than 400 men found those exposed to the highest air pollution levels were around 15 per cent more at risk of being a flop in the bedroom.
For the latest study, scientists at Guangzhou Medical University in China wanted to see if car fumes affected sexual response.
They exposed rats to regular doses of petrol and diesel exhaust gases and monitored their levels of sexual arousal.
The results showed the longer they were exposed, the less likely they were to respond to sexual stimuli.
The scientists warned: ‘Our results raise concerns about the potential role of long-term exposure to gasoline emissions in the development of erectile dysfunction.’
At least one in ten men in the UK suffers erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives.
Some studies suggest more than a third of those over 40 are affected.
Although drugs like Viagra have revolutionised treatment, around 35 per cent of men who take them see no improvement.
In severe cases, it can wreck relationships, and cause anxiety and depression.
Dr Geoff Hackett, chairman of British Society of Sexual Medicine, said: ‘I’m not surprised at these findings.
‘Air pollution doesn’t just affect the blood vessels but oxygen levels too.
‘If the oxygen levels in blood reaching a man’s genitals is substantially reduced due to exhaust fumes, he’s much more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction.
‘This study was in rats but if it was in men I’d expect to see the same results.’