The widow of a chemistry teacher who died after being exposed to asbestos in science labs has been awarded £290,000 compensation.

The teacher, whose name has not been made public, taught at the same school in East Sussex for 34 years.

He died in September 2007 aged 61.

He had developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in equipment used for science experiments and demonstrations.

His widow said the illness took hold suddenly and her husband died within five months of being diagnosed.

She warned all school staff needed to be vigilant to ensure they were safe against risks in the classroom.

She said: "You only need to be exposed to such a small amount of asbestos and it can kill you.

"My husband just didn't know what danger he was exposing himself to on a daily basis."

It has emerged there are no rules within the Government's Building Schools for the Future programme that ban asbestos from schools.

More than 75% of existing schools are believed to contain the material which was used widely for fireproofing and insulation in buildings between the 1950s and 1980s.

Asbestos is normally safe unless it becomes damaged and toxic fibres are able to mix with air and be inhaled.

The compensation payment was made by East Sussex County Council.

A spokeswoman for the council said it was unable to comment on individual cases but that it investigated each one thoroughly to see whether payouts were due.

She said: "The council is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our employees and pupils.

"We take our responsibilities for asbestos management very seriously and follow statutory Health and Safety Executive guidance."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said at least 400 of its members across Britain knew they had been exposed to asbestos and were fearful for their health.