Pregnancy tests are in dire need of a redesign. And while we’ve seen some real progress on this front, the vast majority of “modern” digital pregnancy tests are overpriced and generate even more e-waste by tacking on batteries, LCD screens, and other electronic components for a single-use device. That’s why Lia, a simple flushable and biodegradable pregnancy test, is a breath of fresh air.
The way the Lia works is similar to every other pregnancy test out there. The strip tests for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), or more commonly known as the pregnancy hormone. Essentially, you pee on the Lia, lay it flat, and in a few minutes you can tear off a little tab to see your results, which Lia claims are 99% accurate. The main difference is when you’re done, you can rip up the thing and flush it down the toilet or drop it into a compost bin. Or as Lia’s site describes it: “Pee, see, flush.”
Still, flushable products aren’t always as flushable as they claim. For instance, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies advises against flushable wet wipes, as some companies interpret flushable to mean “won’t cause a clog” as opposed to something made of biodegradable materials that will decompose over time. Conversely, Lia says its pregnancy tests are made of the same natural plant fibers as most toilet paper, and features perforations and a glue-free seal to help water disintegrate the product. It weighs less than four squares of 2-ply toilet paper and doesn’t contain plastic, glass fibers, or nitrocellulose, which are all materials commonly found in single-use pregnancy tests. The company also said the product has been tested by a third party to prove flushability. Another neat design tidbit is that the test has a temporary coating, so it won’t fall apart when you pee on it, but will still break down in the toilet.
As for the biodegradability piece, Lia claims that third-party testing found the strip took 10 weeks to fully break down. The company also says third-party testing based on the ISO 16929 Municipal Composting Study verified the test as safe for composting—though its packaging should be recycled, except for the silica gel packet.
Obviously, this is neat from an environmental perspective, as according to Lia, 2 million pounds of plastic from pregnancy tests end up in U.S. landfills each year. But in terms of design, it’s also a clever solution to the privacy problem that comes with disposing of pregnancy tests. We’ve all seen a sitcom or two where a nosey friend sees a used pregnancy test (positive or negative) in the trash. And while the inevitable drama that follows is usually neatly resolved in a 30-minute TV show, in real life those situations can be a lot more traumatizing and dicey—especially if the pregnancy is unwanted. While Lia says you can tear off the results for scrapbooking, it’s a good design choice that people who need privacy for safety reasons have the option of tearing the entire thing to bits.
That said, the Lia isn’t perfect. One major issue with current pregnancy test design is that results can be difficult for vision-impaired people to read. Earther asked Lia whether any aspects of the design would be usable for the blind or those with low-vision, as means the test might not be truly private if some folks still have to have someone to read them their results. Accessibility is also another issue, as right now, Lia is only available online in the U.S., and costs $14 for a 2-pack. However, the company told Earther it hopes to be in retail stores in the future.
“In order to allow the test to be plastic-free, biodegradable and flushable we limited the design to 3 components (the housing top, the housing bottom and the test strip),” Lia CEO Bethany Edwards told Earther over e-mail. “We hope to innovate even further in the near future to make our test fully inclusive and accessible.”
Even so, it’s refreshing to see a pregnancy test that doesn’t pair with a useless app, but actually addresses some very real problems in need of solutions. Now if only the big-name drugstore brands would also get on board.