Jump to main navigation Skip to Content

DFG Logo: back to Homepage Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Press Release No. 26 | 4 July 2016
Health and Safety at Work: DFG Senate Commission Submits 52nd List of Maximum Workplace Concentrations and Biological Exposure Limits

DFG Presents List to Federal Minister / 86 Changes and Additions / High Number of New MAK Values

In 2016, the Senate Commission for the Investigation of Health Hazards of Chemical Compounds in the Work Area of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) presented the 52nd issue of the List of Maximum Workplace Concentrations (MAK values) and Biological Exposure Limits (BAT values). In providing this list, the DFG, the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation of the research community in Germany, has fulfilled its statutory mandate to advise on science policy. The DFG presented the list to the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs on 1 July. It includes 86 changes and additions and is available in digital open access format as well as in a printed version. The digital version of the list of MAK and BAT values is available in German and English.

The Commission made a particularly high number of additions and revisions to the Maximum Workplace Concentrations (MAK values) this year. In the latest list, it has applied the value to 15 new substances. It has changed the value for eight substances, including the short-term value category and the excursion factor, and confirmed the value for three substances following careful assessment of the latest literature. Three substances have now been classified in category 4 (substances with carcinogenic potential), to which the Commission has assigned MAK values. Adhering to these values are protects against the formation of tumours. One of the newly categorised substances is barium sulphate, which can be inhaled in powder form in the air and can produce a local effect in the lungs. By contrast, the two chemicals furan and nitrobenzene have a systemic effect. In other words, they are absorbed into the organism via the skin or lungs and circulate via the bloodstream.

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 Exposure Limit). Furthermore, it describes Biological Reference Limits (BLW) and Biological Substance Reference Values (BAR). For each of the reviewed substances there are detailed scientific justifications that make the Commission's decision-making processes transparent. The proposals for the amendments and the additions are available for discussion until 31 December 2016. New data and scientific comment can also be submitted to the Scientific Secretariat up to that date.

In total, the list saw eleven additions and revisions to the carcinogenic working substances; 34 substances were examined for risks during pregnancy. The Commission also tested all of the named substances for their ability to sensitise the skin or respiratory tract. Nine substances now come with a warning that absorption through the skin in addition to inhalation can significantly contribute to health risks; five substances have kept this warning and the substance 2-Phenoxyethanol has had its warning removed. Experts have made eight amendments and additions to the "Biological Exposure Limits, Biological Reference Limits, Exposure Equivalents for Carcinogenic Substances and Biological Substance Reference Values" section. They assigned a BAR value to benzene and tributyl phosphate, but a value for copper could not be defined. They changed the previous BAT value for nitrobenzene to a BLW value.

Further Information

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 Scientific Secretariat are also published.

Information about health and safety at work is available in the DFG Magazine at:

Note to editors:

Please contact DFG Press and Public Relations for a free review copy.