Maximum Allowable Quantities of Hazardous Materials

What is a Maximum Allowable Quantity? Why are they important?

Maximum allowable quantities (MAQs) are the maximum amount of hazardous materials allowed to be stored or used within a control area in a building. These limits are established by the California Fire Code (CFC) and are broken down by hazard class. The MAQs are intended to ensure the quantities of hazardous materials in a building are within the safe operating levels for the fire and life safety elements to which the building is designed and operated. Adhering to these limits is essential for ensuring a building is safe for its occupants and first responders.

What is a control area?

A control area is a space withing a building where hazardous materials are stored, dispensed, used or handled. Control areas are constructed with features like fire rated walls that prevent the spread of fire to and from other areas in the building, allowing for safe emergency egress and fire department response. The number of control areas on a floor varies greatly across UCSF buildings, from one to more than ten.

How are MAQs determined? Why are my lab’s MAQs different from my colleagues’?

Determining MAQs is complex and relies on several structural and operational factors.

The most common factors that determine MAQs at UCSF are:

► on which floor your lab is located (see Fig. 1 below)
► whether a fire sprinkler system is installed throughout the building
► use of approved storage cabinets

As emergency response and egress become increasingly difficult with building height, the quantity of hazardous materials that can be safely used and stored decreases. For example, the MAQs on floors 9th and above are 5% of those allowed on the 1st floor. Conversely, if the entire building is equipped with a sprinkler system and approved storage cabinets are used, the MAQs a specific floor can increase by as much as 400%.

MAQ Table by Floor


How do I know if I am compliant with my MAQs?

You can check the status of your MAQs compliance from the inventory summary page of your chemical inventory by logging into

What happens if I exceed an MAQ?

MAQs are set by the Fire Code to keep building occupants and first responders safe. Exceeding MAQs puts everyone at risk and is considered a serious offense. If your control area exceeds the MAQ, you will first receive an email notification with recommended corrective action. If the corrective actions cannot resolve the MAQ exceedance, a Hazmat Taskforce will work with you and others in your area to develop a corrective action plan. Common corrective actions include decreasing the quantities of hazardous materials that you use and store, replacing old storage cabinets with approved cabinets, and in the most extreme cases, relocating research activities to another location.

How do I know which of my chemicals are in a particular MAQ hazard category?

1. One option is to search your UC Chemicals inventory for that hazard category.

image of UC Chemicals search page

2. Select the MAQ hazard class in the "Classification" field and the appropriate "Physical State" (highlighted in the red box below). The search will automatically update after these selections are made.

image of UC Chemicals search page

Note that some MAQ categories (such as Oxidizers and Flammable Liquids) are split further into additional classes. Please contact EH&S to obtain a more detailed report for these categories. See table below for the most common chemicals in each hazard category.

Hazard Class
Common Chemicals
Flammable Liquids IA Diethyl ether, 2-methylbutane
Flammable Liquids IB/IC Ethanol, isopropanol, methanol, acetone, acetonitrile, xylenes
Corrosive Liquids Acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, bleach, sulfuric acid, trifluoroacetic acid, cell lysis solutions (TRIzol, phenol/chloroform, etc)
Corrosive Solids Sodium hydroxide, sodium dodecyl sulfate, paraformaldehyde
Toxic Liquids 2-mercaptoethanol, acetonitrile, acrylamide solutions, chloroform, formaldehyde solutions, cell lysis solutions (TRIzol, phenol/chloroform, etc), xylenes
Toxic Solids Paraformaldehyde, EDTA disodium salt dehydrate, DL-dithiothreitol (DTT), phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF)
Highly Toxic Liquids 2-mercaptoethanol, acetic anhydride, hygromycin B solution
Highly Toxic Solids Sodium azide, N, N’-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide (DCC), N-lauroylsarcosine)
Oxidizer 2 Liquids Hydrogen peroxide solutions 8-35%
Oxidizer 2 Solids Silver nitrate, potassium permanganate, potassium dichromate, sodium nitrate
Oxidizer 3 Liquids Hydrogen peroxide solutions 60-91%, 70% perchloric acid
Oxidizer 3 Solids 3-chloroperbenzoic acid (mCPBA), periodic acid, sodium periodate


What happens if I am unable to comply with the MAQ?

If a MAQ exceedance is unable to be resolved, UCSF is required to report the non-compliance to the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM). The OSFM will determine the necessary enforcement actions which may include shutting down a laboratory, or even an entire building.

Weill Neurosciences Building at Mission Bay has a newly established ChemCentral program designed to minimize quantities of stored hazardous materials on each floor, with enforcement of the MAQs happening in real-time. See MAQ Hazardous Materials Enforcement for Weill Neurosciences building.

Why is MAQ compliance only being addressed now?

MAQs have always been enforced at UCSF, but the process was lengthy and expensive. UCSF has spent the last two years implementing a new chemical inventory software (UC Chemicals) that allows us to see MAQ compliance in real time, identify overages, and recommend corrective actions in a timely manner.

How can I reduce the quantity of chemicals I have?

UCSF is in the process of implementing a comprehensive chemical management program that will enable researchers to purchase chemicals on site. This program will first be launched in the new Weill Neurosciences Research Building, followed by Parnassus campus and ZSFGH. Please visit for more information.
Additional strategies to reduce the chemicals you store include:
•  Purchase smaller quantities of chemicals (i.e 500g instead of 1kg)
•  Avoid purchasing duplicate chemicals and cases
•  If possible, share chemicals (chick here to see how to share a container using UC Chemicals)
•  Confirm that your chemical inventory is accurate
•  Dispose of any expired or unneeded chemicals and update your inventory accordingly

My research needs require more chemicals than I am permitted. Can I increase my MAQ?

Since MAQs are largely determined by building construction it can be very costly to increase the limit. Due to their complexity, MAQ increases must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the Fire Prevention group for assistance.

chemicals graphic