China's air pollution could have been factor in Taiwanese-Canadian actor's death: Doctor

Breathing China's polluted air during intense exercise could have led to Taiwanese-Canadian actor's death: Doctor

Gao (left), pollution in Ningbo (right). (Photos from Weibo and Wikimedia Commons)

Gao (left), pollution in Ningbo (right). (Photos from Weibo and Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After news broke on Wednesday (Nov. 27) that a Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model had suddenly died of a heart attack, Taiwanese physician Su I-feng (蘇一峰) on Thursday (Nov. 28) wrote that intense exercise combined with badly polluted air and cold temperatures could have contributed to his death.

On Wednesday morning, a blogger broke the news that Tsao Chih-hsiang (曹志翔), 35, who is known by his stage name Godfrey Gao (高以翔), had had a medical emergency while filming the Zhejiang Television reality show "Chase Me" (追我吧). Zhejiang Television then announced that Gao had died of an apparent heart attack after doctors were unable to save him.

In response to the shock over the young star's sudden death, Su on Thursday wrote on Everyday Health (早安健康) that two factors to take into consideration were the weather and level of air pollution. Su wrote that when people do not bother to check air quality readings and go jogging outside when the air quality index is flashing a red or purple warning, "This is actually tantamount to suicide."

Su stated that even on a day when a person does not exercise, they still breathe in 10,000 liters of air. When the human body undergoes vigorous exercise, the air intake is 10 to 20 times greater than usual, wrote Su.

He wrote that when pollution levels are high, the amount of particles inhaled into the body is "beyond imagination." Su then posted a screenshot of the air quality readings for that fateful day in the Zhejiang province city of Ningbo, where the TV shoot was taking place.

(Screenshot from

Su pointed out that the PM2.5 and PM10 levels had shown orange warnings for much of the day, signifying air that was unhealthy for sensitive groups. He added that the PM2.5 levels had also had spiked above 100, evidenced by a red warning for air that was unhealthy for everyone.

He said what made matters worse was that the temperature dipped significantly to below 10 degrees Celsius during that same time frame. According to Su, cold air and air pollution combined can put a strain on cardiopulmonary function.

Su wrote that high-intensity exercise in cold weather increases the burden on the heart, while a high level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 or PM10) in the air strains the respiratory system. The result is a "great burden on the cardiovascular system. Even a normally functioning cardiovascular system of a young person could be under threat in this circumstance," wrote Su.

He added that a lack of sleep and consuming a large number of energy drinks could increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

According to a study by Greenpeace and Switzerland-based IQ AirVisual, "Polluted air presents the world's 4th leading contributing cause of early deaths and burdens the global economy with an estimated annual cost of $225 billion.

Footage of Gao showing signs of fatigue moments before his collapse. (Screenshot of Sina Entertainment video)