Why It’s More than a Shirt: Collecting Long Sleeve Shirts

Since the 1980’s, it has been known that ultraviolet (UV) exposure from the sun causes damage to the skin and increases the risk for developing skin cancer (Marks et al., 1990). More so, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the U.S. (Guy et al., 2015). Globally rural and agricultural populations are known to have higher risks for skin cancer (Blair and Zahm, 1991) due to the nature of their work.

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AFOP Health & Safety programs generally recommends that farm workers plan work activities, when possible, for after 3 or 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are less robust. However, most farm workers are not in control of their schedules or workload. We are aware of this and advise that farm workers to seek shade and to cover up, if one must be out during the midday sun’s impenetrable rays.

Granted, there is not much shade to be found in most of America’s fields which is why covering up is essential. Covering up has a dual purpose; long sleeves also help protect farm workers from pesticides and their residues while working in the fields.

Protective Clothing for Pesticide Use

There is always a need for light-colored, long-sleeve cotton shirts. Long-sleeve shirts are important to protect farmworkers from the blazing sun and pesticide exposure. AFOP Health & Safety Programs stresses to farm workers that they need to wear a fresh shirt daily, so they their skin does not further absorb pesticides from a saturated shirt from the previous day. However, this is not always easy for farm workers who might not have the financial means to buy enough shirts or have access to a washing machine to maintain a supply of clean shirts.

The aforementioned is why AFOP Health & Safety programs coordinates its annual nationwide long sleeve shirt drive. Partners, universities, organizations, health clinics, and individuals alike set up donation locations within their respective communities for the week-long event of not just collecting long sleeve shirts but educating the general public about farm worker occupational safety. We often find that many people just don’t know what or who harvesting America’s fruits and vegetables entails. A small donation of a gently used or new long-sleeve, light-colored shirt goes a long way in helping to protect the people who feed America.


After the long-sleeve shirts have been collected AFOP Health & Safety trainers and participating farm worker organizations hand out the shirts to farm workers as needed. AFOP Health & Safety trainers conduct occupational health and safety trainings to farm workers nationwide and the shirts are great reminders and tools to help implement some of the safety tips learned.





Marks et al., 1990

  1. Marks, D. Jolley, S. Lectsas, P. Foley

The role of childhood exposure to sunlight in the development of solar keratoses and non-melanocytic skin cancer

Med. J. Aust., 152 (1990), pp. 62–66

View Record in ScopusCiting articles (112)


Guy et al., 2015

G.P. Guy Jr., S.R. Machlin, D.U. Ekwueme, K.R. Yabroff

Prevalence and costs of skin cancer treatment in the U.S., 2002–2006 and 2007–2011

Am. J. Prev. Med., 48 (2015), pp. 183–187

Article  PDF (125 K)View Record in ScopusCiting articles (51)


Blair and Zahm, 1991

  1. Blair, S.H. Zahm

Cancer among farmers

Occup. Med., 6 (1991), pp. 335–354 (Jul-Sep)

View Record in Scopus  | Citing articles (21)