Polyethylene (PE) and cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes are frequently used in water supply systems. Such pipes contain added antioxidants with phenolic structures, e.g. Irgafos 168, Irganox 1010 and 1076, in order to improve durability. However, phenol, ketone and quinone antioxidant degradation products may leach and enter drinking water. The aim of this investigation was to develop a method for measuring these degradation products with a performance meeting the drinking water quality criteria of 20 µg L−1. Using headspace solid phase microextraction coupled to a gas chromatograph with a mass spectrometer, a method was established revealing limits of detection and quantification less than 0.4 and 1 µg L−1 respectively. The method was applied to migration experiments for two PEX pipes and one PE material, quantifying the release of two degradation products. Highest concentrations were observed for 2,6-di-tert-butyl-p-benzoquinone which in one of the two pipes was found in concentrations of 18–57 µg L−1 in each of eight consecutive release experiments.