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FAQ: MAK Commission

Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the Permanent Senate Commission for the Investigation of Health Hazards of Chemical Compounds in the Work Area. If you have any further questions, please get in touch with our contacts at the DFG Head Office:

Why is the Commission based at the DFG?

The Senate Commission is the only independent, science-driven body in Germany that evaluates the health-related effects of substances in the work area. This economic and political independence in the formulation of threshold limit value recommendations is extremely important because these recommendations form the scientific basis for legally defined threshold limit values at the workplace: as such they have a significant impact on the health protection of employees in companies and the monitoring carried out by the state and professional associations. For this reason, the topic areas are of considerable social and political importance and are also subject to intense and sometimes controversial debate in the public domain.

What steps are taken to ensure the recommendations are independent?

The way the Senate Commission operates is fundamentally designed to ensure that individual assessments and the interests of individual Commissioners can have only a limited impact on the results produced by the Commission. Discussion drafts are drawn up by the Scientific Secretariat based on the dual control principle. Discussion within the Commission passes through several stages until all ambiguities and concerns have been clarified and requests for additional information have been addressed. The interdisciplinary make-up of the Commission ensures that an intense discussion process takes place involving differing perspectives. The Commission does not approve a result until it has reached a consensus.

A declaration of conflicts of interest – which is a prerequisite for participation in the Commission in the first place – must include information on a person’s employment or activity (main or secondary occupation) if it is related to the work done by the Senate Commission. This includes participation in and membership of relevant national and international bodies and committees relevant to occupational health and safety, advisory activities or an individual’s own scientific projects or studies.

Circumstances which suggest a potential a conflict of interest result in exclusion from discussion and final approval of Commission results regarding a particular substance. The AiBM and Air Analyses Working Groups, which are concerned with the development of measuring methods, operate on the principle of describing, testing and optimising as many methods as possible in practice. The methods are contributed by working group members themselves, since they have previous experience of these methods. The methods are tested by an independent laboratory, thereby effectively preventing inappropriate influence or conflict of interest. The contribution of members’ own methods, including methods developed in industry, and their dissemination through publication are what enable threshold limit values to be implemented in practice in the first place. So the fact that a working group member is focused on their own method and involved in its development in collaboration with industrial partners is not considered to be a conflict of interest.

How can feedback and information be passed on to the Commission, for example studies or findings on a substance that have not previously been taken into consideration?

The preview list provides an overview of substances the Commission wishes to focus on: this enables details of previously unpublished studies or scientific work to be passed on to the Commission’s Scientific Secretariat at any time. Substantiations and methods can be commented on for a period of six months after initial publication in order to resolve potential ambiguities and take additional information into consideration. Even after this period, questions and requests for additional information can be submitted to the Commission Secretariat.

On average, how long does it take for a Commission recommendation on a substance to be completed?

The process from research to discussion and publication of a substantiation or method usually takes about two years.

What happens if it is not possible to derive a MAK or BAT value?

If the state of knowledge is not sufficient to derive a threshold limit value, a summary of the state of knowledge is published nonetheless and this is made available publicly. The discussion is then reopened when new studies and findings are available.