In a subset of high-altitude dwellers, the appropriate erythrocytotic response becomes excessive and can result in chronic mountain sickness. We studied men with (study group) and without excessive erythrocytosis (packed-cell volume >65%) living in Cerro de Pasco, Peru (altitude 4300 m), and compared them with controls living in Lima, Peru (at sea-level). Toxic serum cobalt concentrations were detected in 11 of 21 (52%) study participants with excessive erythrocytosis, but were undetectable in high altitude or sea-level controls. In the mining community of Cerro de Pasco, cobalt toxicity might be an important contributor to excessive erythrocytosis.
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