On sunny days, when his classmates run out to play, Gabriel Rosales heads to the school nurse for a dose of Albuterol.
The fine mist opens his airways, relaxing the muscles in his chest. Without it, recess could leave the nine-year-old gasping for breath. He gets a second dose at the end of the day before heading home from St John Bosco Elementary School, in San Antonio, Texas.
Over the past year, Gabriel’s asthma has worsened. Visits to the emergency room, shortened trips to the park and reliance on inhalers have become his new norm. “It got to the point where I couldn’t even leave him with anybody,” said his father, Gabe, who works as a consultant to the National Association of Public Employees, a workers’ advocacy group, and a seasonal field director of the Bexar County Democratic Party. “One time he almost looked blue.”
Gabriel’s health is deteriorating alongside air quality in San Antonio, where oil and gas development, a hotter climate and a growing population have combined to spell misery for a city that once boasted clean air compared to other Texas metropolitan areas. Part of the problem lies southeast of the city in the Eagle Ford Shale,a 400-mile-long hub of hydraulic fracturing that unleashes microscopic particles and smog-causing, ground-level ozone.