MAILI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's a mystery at a Maili public housing project over whether recently demolished playgrounds have made area children sick.
Parents say there's even a mystery as to why four playgrounds, including one at the Maili 1 housing, were torn down in the first place.
"We never have no notices as to why they were going to take it down, so today we have no answers whatsoever. And that's all we want, answers," said Maili 1 resident Labor Ann Hidaro.
According to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, the private management company that runs the complex took down the playgrounds because of vandalism. But parents are even more upset that the resulting debris wasn't cleared up right away. They suspect that some of the material may be connected to coughs that developed in their children.
Hidaro's five-year-old son, Jaez'n-Jeffrey, developed such a cough. "The cough just lingers," Hidaro said. "We were thinking that it was just like a cold, but usually colds -- the cough goes away."
The coughing was even worse for Dawn Clarke's seven-year-old daughter, Maile.
"So on Wednesday I took my daughter to the doctor, and they told me that she does not have the flu, it is not a virus, that she has been exposed to something that has given her a bronchial infection," said Clarke.
Clarke also showed us x-rays of her daughter's lungs. "You can see it a little better, of all the bronchial infection, all this clouding here," she said, pointing to gray spots on the x-ray. "It should be crystal clear, where you can see through the x-ray."
Carroll Cox of Envirowatch visited the playground areas, which had been cleared on Friday. But there was still a black, rubber-like substance that released dust when broken apart. "It gives the appearance that it's burnt, but it's not," said Cox, who put on latex gloves before picking up some of the material. "It really is rubber. But again, what's in rubber? And also, these are small children."
The suspicions of residents were raised further today, when crews came to clear the debris. "So we were really happy at first. And then they came with full armor -- gloves, masks -- and I got really upset," said Clarke. "So, you're willing to protect your workers, but what about my child?"
Clarke took some of the black substance to a lab for testing, but they won't know the results until Tuesday. Meantime, the housing authority said it is monitoring the situation. It also plans to eventually replace the playgrounds.