Press Release No. 34 | 23 July 2014
Health and Safety at Work: DFG Senate Commission Submits the 50th List of Maximum Workplace Concentrations and Biological Tolerance Values
DFG President Strohschneider Presents the List to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs / 65 Changes and Additions / Success for the Open Access Publication
For the 50th time, the Senate Commission for the Investigation of Health Hazards of Chemical Compounds in the Work Area of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has submitted a list of maximum workplace concentrations (MAK values) and biological tolerance values (BAT values), laying the scientific foundation for the legislation that governs health and safety in the workplace. The DFG President, Professor Peter Strohschneider, presented the list to Hans-Peter Viethen, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, on 23 July. It includes 65 changes and additions and is available in a digital open access format as well as in a printed version.
When the list was presented at a meeting of the Senate Commission, Professor Strohschneider and Mr Viethen thanked the Commission members for their conscientious and important work. "The suggestions by the Senate Commission form an important basis for German legislation and they are appreciated all over the world. In providing this list of maximum workplace concentrations and biological tolerance values, the DFG is also fulfilling its statutory mandate to advise the government," the DFG President said. At the meeting, Andrea Hartwig, Chair of the Commission and Professor of Food Chemistry and Toxicology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), described the Commission and its responsibilities and cited examples to illustrate the relevance of its scientific work.
International interest in the work of the Commission is indicated by over 200,000 downloads of the open access version of the "MAK Collection" in 2013, which amounts to almost twice as many as in the previous year. Non-European countries have contributed significantly to this increase. The list of MAK and BAT values has been translated into English since 1985. The European Commission frequently consults the recommendations of the Senate Commission, which also works closely with other international bodies.
As well as the eponymous maximum workplace concentrations (the amount of a substance that may be present in the workplace in the form of a gas, vapour or aerosol without causing long-term damage), the list contains information about which substances are carcinogenic, damage germ cells or harm a developing foetus, sensitise the skin or respiratory tract, or are absorbed through the skin. It also states the concentration of a substance in the body to which a person can be exposed for a working lifetime without adverse health effects (the biological tolerance value). Furthermore, it describes 'Biologische Leitwerte' (BLW; i.e. biological guidance values) and 'Biologische Arbeitsstoff-Referenzwerte' (BAR; i.e. biological reference values). For each of the reviewed substances there is detailed scientific documentation that makes the Commission's decision-making processes transparent. The proposals for the amendments and the additions are available for discussion until 31 December 2014. New data and scientific comments can also be submitted to the Scientific Secretariat up to that date.
The current list includes important changes for dichloromethane, for which the Commission has defined a MAK value of 50 ml/m3 for effective protection from neurotoxicity and an increased risk of cancer. However, pregnant women should not be exposed to this substance at all. Dichloromethane is used as a solvent and as an alternative to ozone-destroying coolants in refrigerators. Tetrafluoropropene, which could be used in automotive air conditioning systems, has been given a MAK value for the first time. The Commission has also defined a MAK value for diacetyl, which aggressively attacks the lungs and has come under discussion since workers in microwave popcorn production in the USA have shown evidence of damage. Using a procedure established in 2010 to apply the results of animal experiments to humans in order to derive the MAK values, the Commission has reviewed the final two of a total of 37 substances and now concluded this process: the concentration for di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) has been lowered to 2 mg/m³ and that for diazinon retained.
Overall, the list contains 11 reviews and new additions for carcinogenic substances, 3 suspected of causing changes to germ cells (glycidol, 4-aminobiphenyl and 2-naphthylamine), and 17 reviews of teratogenicity. Nine substances were added to the "damaging if absorbed through the skin" category, where four others were retained. There were five amendments and additions to the "Assessment Values in Biological Material" section. Two substances were given a new BAT value while it was not possible to derive a BAT value for boric acid and tetraborates: there is not enough data for these substances to allow specification of an upper limit which would prevent damage.
Following the submission of the 50th list of maximum workplace concentrations and biological tolerance values, the next anniversary for the DFG Senate Commission will be in 2015 when it will mark the 60th year since its foundation.
For more information about the work of the Senate Commission, a detailed list of all additions and amendments and open access to the MAK Collection of publications, please go to
where the names of relevant contacts at the DFG and the contact details of the Commission's administrative office are also published.
Information about health and safety at work is available in the DFG Magazine at: