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Lanthanum is a soft, malleable, ductile, silver-white metal. It is chemically active, it is one of the most reactive of the rare-earth metals: it oxidizes rapidly in air and it reacts with water to form the hydroxide. Lanthanum is easily ignited, its salts are often very insoluble.
Lanthanum is one of the rare chemicals that can be found in houses in equipment such as colour televisions, fluorescent lamps, energy-saving lamps and glasses. All rare chemicals have comparable properties. La2O2 is used to make special optical glasses (infrared adsorbing glass, camera and telescope lenses). If added in small amounts it improves the malleability and resistance of steel. Lanthanum is used as the core material in carbon arc electrodes. Lanthanum salts are included in the zeolite catalysts used in petroleum refining because they stabilize the zeolite at high temperatures.