The Interdepartmental Commission for Maximum Admissible Concentrations and Intensities for Agents Harmful to Health in the Working Environment was organised in 1983 by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy together with the Minister of Health and Social Welfare. On 15 December 2008, the Prime Minister appointed new members of the Commission (Dziennik Ustaw 2008, no 225, item 1490). The secretariat of the Commission is based at the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute.
The Commission has appointed a Group of Experts for Chemical and Dust Agents, a Group of Experts for Biological Agents and a Group for Physical Factors. Those groups consist of independent experts in the fields of toxicology, occupational medicine and occupational hygiene. They prepare health-base documentation for recommended exposure limits along with analytical procedures, recommendations with respect to pre-employment and periodical medical examinations and contraindications to exposure, and if possible, with biological tolerance limits. Documentation prepared by the experts is thoroughly reviewed at the meetings of the Group, where the recommended values undergo careful scientific evaluation.
Uniform documentation for each compound includes:
- 1. Contents
- 2. Summary
- 3. Substance characterisation, uses and occupational exposure
- 4. Toxic effects on human
- 5. Toxic effects on laboratory animals
- 6. Carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, teratogenicity, embriotoxicity, and effects on reproduction
- 7. Toxicokinetics
- 8. Mechanism of toxicity
- 9. Combined effects
- 10. Dose-effect and dose-response relationships
- 11. Bases for existing MAC or MAI values and biological tolerance limits
- 12. Bases for proposed MAC or MAI values and biological tolerance limits
- 13. Methods of determining the agents harmful to health in the air and in biological material
- 14. Pre-employment and periodical medical examinations
- 15. References
Prepared MAC and MAI documentation, being at this time a common view of the Group of Experts are discussed at sessions of the Interdepartmental Commission. For carcinogenic agents, the Commission has adopted the socially accepted risk at the level 10-5 ÷ 10-3.
The proposed MAC and MAI values are then the subject of an evaluation by the Interdepartmental Commission and acceptance by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy. After the Minister’s approval, the MAC and MAI lists are published in Dziennik Ustaw. They are hygienic standards valid for all branches of the national economy.
To date there are 509 MAC values for chemical substances, 19 for dusts and 11 for physical agents (the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy on the maximum admissible concentrations and intensities of harmful to health agents in the working environment, Dziennik Ustaw 2002, No. 217, item 1833, changes Dziennik Ustaw 2005, No. 212, item 1769; Dziennik Ustaw 2007, No 161, item 1142; Dziennik Ustaw 2009, No 105, item 873; Dziennik Ustaw 2010, No 141, item 950).
There are MAI values for the following physical agents in the working environment:
- noise and ultrasonic noise,
- hand-arm and whole-body vibrations,
- hot and cold microclimate,
- infrared, ultraviolet and laser radiation,
- electromagnetic field for every frequency in the range 0 Hz – 300 GHz.
According to the type of biological effects, the following categories of MAC values are used:
- NDS – MAC(TWA): MAXIMUM ADMISSIBLE CONCENTRATION: the time-weighted average concentration for a conventional 8-hour workday and a workweek defined in the Labour Code, to which workers may be exposed during their whole working life, without any adverse effects on their health (also when retired) or that of the next generations.
- NDSCh – MAC(STEL): MAXIMUM ADMISSIBLE SHORT-TERM CONCENTRATION: the short-term exposure limit is an average concentration, to which workers may exposed without any adverse health effects if it does not last longer than 15 minutes and does not occur more than twice during a workday, at intervals not shorter than 1 hour.
- NDSP – MAC(C): MAXIMUM ADMISSIBLE CEILING CONCENTRATION: Ceiling concentration, which because of the threat to workers’ health or life, should not be exceeded even instantaneously.
- NDN – MAI: MAXIMUM ADMISSIBLE INTENSITIES: The level of exposure appropriate to property of individual physical harmful to health agent, to which workers may exposed during their whole working life, without any adverse health effects on their health (also when retired) or that of the next generations.
In the Polish system, the documentation of MAC and MAI values is published quarterly in the publication of the Interdepartmental Commission “Principles and Methods of Assessing the Working Environment”, which makes it possible for occupational physicians and sanitary inspectors to become acquainted with the problem.
The specified MAC and MAI values constitute guidelines for the designers of new and updated technologies and products, criteria for the evaluation of working conditions, and a basis for planned preventive activities in industrial plants. Industrial plants are obliged to estimate concentrations of toxic substances below those specified in the list of MAC and MAI values at a frequency and in the scope required to determine the degree of workers’ exposure, and to keep records of those estimates. An improvement of working conditions is the aim of those activities.
The Interdepartmental Commission also propose BEI values, but they are only as recommendation values. They are published in a Commission booklet “Harmful agents in the working environment – limit values”. The Commission established BEIs for 33 chemical substances. In Poland only workers exposed to lead in the working environment must have blood tests to determine how much lead there is in their blood – this is so in accordance with regulation of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare of May 30, 1996 on medical examinations of workers, the scope of preventive health care and on expert medical opinions for purposes provided for in the Labour Code.
Biological monitoring entails the measurement of substances and/or metabolites in biological media, and the measurement of biological effects induced by the substance.
The Commission also published the booklet “Hazardous agents in the working environment – limit values” in 2010.