Foxconn, the Chinese company that manufactures Apple iPads, confirmed in an e-mailed statement that a third worker has died after suffering injuries in an explosion at the company’s factory near Chengdu, in the south-central part of China.

The explosion initially caused two deaths and 16 injuries. Six of the injured workers have been released from the hospital, the statement said.

The company said that initial findings indicate the accident was caused by an explosion of combustible dust in an air duct.

The buildup of aluminum dust in the ventilation system had been identified as a potential threat to worker’s respiratory health in a report from Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), released two weeks before the explosion, CNET reported.

Foxconn, in an e-mailed statement earlier this month, reacted to SACOM’s report, saying that while the company was “far from perfect.” it had “worked hard over the past year to institute programs and policies to ensure that our workers in China have the support they need to deal with challenges they face inside and outside the workplace.

“Those initiatives, together with actions we have taken to ensure that we are paying the highest wages in our industry in each location where we operate, have been well-received by our employees and the numbers speak for themselves, lives have been saved and employee retention is at an all-time high,” the statement said.

Apple responded to the explosion in a statement to All Things Digital, saying, “We are deeply saddened by the tragedy at Foxconn’s plant in Chengdu, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We are working closely with Foxconn to understand what caused this terrible event.”

Apple declined to say what impact the blast would have on production and supply, the report said..

Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw, told Bloomberg that the blast is unlikely to greatly affect the supply lines for the iPad, and that in a worst case scenario Apple could still ship about 8 million units in the current quarter.

Foxconn and Apple both came under fire after several Foxconn workers committed suicide last summer at its plant in Shenzhen, forcing the Chinese manufacturer to install anti-suicide nets around its factory. The company denied reports that it made its workers sign promises not to commit suicide.

“Foxconn does not ask its employees to sign non-suicide agreements, any statements to the contrary are not true,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Apple’s Supplier Responsibility 2011 Progress Report said that the company had asked for an independent suicide prevention review of the conditions at the Shenzhen plant. The company also said it was investigating a report that workers at a different company had been exposed to unsafe chemicals.

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