Anemia is a well-defined complication of aluminum overload in chronic dialysis patients which may be present before other manifestations of aluminum toxicity are obvious. Causes of anemia in chronic renal failure are multiple, and at the present time there is no marker for aluminum-induced anemia. Deferoxamine (DFO) treatment can correct aluminum-related anemia and microcytosis, but may be associated with side effects. Because of the possible role of aluminum in red blood cells in causing the anemia associated with aluminum overload, we attempted to test red blood cell (RBC) aluminum as a marker for aluminum-associated anemia and to assess the prevalence of aluminum-associated anemia in an outpatient dialysis population. Both random plasma aluminum and RBC aluminum correlated well with the increase in plasma aluminum seen following DFO challenge. However, RBC aluminum was affected less by changes in oral aluminum intake than plasma aluminum. There were strong correlations of RBC and plasma aluminum to corpuscular volume (MCV) in our patients. Moreover, patients within the highest quartile of RBC aluminum had a lower mean MCV (82.1 ′ 1.7 vs 89.6 ′ 1.7, p < 01) and hematocrit (HCT) (24.3 ′; 4 vs 28.2 ′ 1.5, p < 05) than those within the lowest quartile. These data suggest that aluminum toxicity is an important cause of microcytic anemia in outpatient hemodialysis patients. Prospective long-term studies are needed to further define the usefulness of RBC aluminum in diagnosing and following hemodialysis patients with aluminum-induced anemia.